How Dwight Howard Is Completely Changing the Nature of NBA Free Agency

By Marilee Gallagher
Richard Mackson-USA Today Sports

Another NBA season has gone by, the Miami Heat have hoisted their second-straight NBA Championship and once again, Dwight Howard is the subject of any and all discussion as he chooses where he will “take his talents” for the 2014 season.

It really does cause one to question: W hat is it that makes the self-proclaimed “Superman” so special?

Sure, he is a seven-time NBA All Star, won three consecutive Defensive Player of the Year awards, has led the league in rebounding and blocks, doing each more than once, and is a five-time All-NBA selection, but since when did that become enough that teams are now literally fawning over the 27-year-old center with a bad back and even worse attitude?

Obviously, Howard’s basketball skills and 6-foot-11, 265-pound frame make him a very attractive player for any team. It also doesn’t hurt that there really aren’t centers with Howard’s skill set or athletic ability left in the league. Of course, that makes him a rare commodity and one any team would love to have.

However, to go to  the extent that both the Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Lakers have in enlisting celebrities to pitch their case as well as reportedly offering the Howard TV deals seems a little over the top.

But that is who Howard has become, over the top. And he is a polarizing figure for that very reason.

Athletic ability aside, Howard is probably the second or third biggest name right now in the NBA, behind only Lebron James and Kobe Bryant. And like these two, Howard is very outspoken and very much a vocal presence off of the court.

After being drafted first overall by the Orlando Magic, Howard played the first eight seasons of his career with the team before deciding he wanted out. According to reports published at the time, Howard demanded he be traded and to the Brooklyn Nets. There were also reports that he personally called for then head coach Stan Van Gundy‘s firing.

As Howard debated whether or not he would stay in for the final year of his contract, his saga became tiresome, annoying and almost as bad as when James publicly announced he was leaving Cleveland for Miami.

It was in the news every single day and when, on the trade deadline, Howard finally announced his intent to stay with the Magic, it made headlines. Howard’s needless saga had finally come to an end.

But it hadn’t really. In fact, it was just beginning.

Just a few months after he informed everyone that he would be staying with Orlando, Howard again became unhappy with the organization, once again requesting a trade to the Nets.

And in August, Howard sort of got his wish. He was traded, but not to Brooklyn, rather to L.A. It was all fine and good. Well, that is when the Lakers were winning.

However, now after conflicting with Bryant, failing to advance in the playoffs and not really being so super after all, Howard’s name is once again in the news as he was a free agent and had a big decision to make (at least until a couple of hours ago).

But as the entire world waited with bated breath to see where Howard ultimately chose to go, lets ponder what teams, namely the top two suitors, the Lakers and Rockets, have done to get him to sign with them in the past couple of weeks — with Houston obviously winning.

As mentioned, both Houston with CSN Houston and L.A. with Time Warner Cable, reportedly offered Howard his own TV program as part of a package that gets him to sign with them. Both teams have also enlisted the help of celebrities, Jim Parsons of “The Big Bang Theory” for Houston and Hollywood actor Jack Nicholson for the Lakers, in order to get Howard to sign.

What ever happened to the days when players were pitched to by team executives, ownership and maybe a few players? When signing was determined on the chance one would have of winning a championship and not starring on TV?

It is uncertain what will happen in the future, but Howard’s free agency could be starting a very unfortunate precedent. And it really does just further increase the disparity between the haves and have nots as teams are getting, lets say, more creative and less traditional, when it comes to free agency tactics.

And from this perspective, that is not necessarily a good thing.

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