Dwight Howard thought about retiring two years ago—the big fella had briefly lost his love for the game.
(Howard, 31, bought a 700-acre farm in north Georgia during the offseason, where he plans to spend his post-NBA days alongside cows, hogs, turkeys, deer and donkeys.)
— Lee Jenkins (@SI_LeeJenkins) September 19, 2017
Dwight was traded to Charlotte this summer, and hopes to regain his All-Star form for the Hornets.
Howard does not have many friends in the league—“I’m kind of the loner”—and he became a convenient target. In one game, [Kobe] Bryant called his former teammate “soft as a motherf—–,” and in another, Kevin Durant called him worse. It wasn’t just fans and media who made him out to be a diva and a slacker, as if a slacker gets those mountainous shoulders. “Some players will tell you they don’t care what other people think,” Howard says. “They’re lying. We all care.”
At a low point with the Rockets, after the 2014–15 season, he considered retiring. The jolly giant who supposedly had too much fun on the floor was miserable. “The joy,” Howard says, “was sucked out of it.” But what would retirement accomplish? He had to change his life regardless of his occupation. So he did what his teenage self would have done. He saw a pastor.
Howard refuses to acknowledge that this season marks his last chance for a revival, but he believes it is his best one. Charlotte’s coach is Steve Clifford, the Superman whisperer who followed Howard from Orlando to Los Angeles as an assistant. When they talk, Howard cannot help but compare [Kemba] Walker with Jameer Nelson, Nic Batum with Hedo Turkoglu, Marvin Williams with Rashard Lewis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist with Mickaël Piétrus. Howard is forever straining to recapture the Magic. Wherever he goes, fans invariably ask, “Why did you leave Orlando? You had everything you wanted.” He is still searching for a suitable answer.
“I don’t think it has to be any different than it was,” Clifford says. The coach is well aware of basketball’s evolution and Howard’s effort to update his repertoire. If Clifford visited the Buckhead condo, he’d notice a photo of Howard’s first made three-pointer from 2007, a source of pride and motivation (one of five he has converted in 56 career attempts). But Clifford is not asking his center to start firing from 30 feet. He maintains, as [Stan] Van Gundy did, that Howard can create treys with deep post touches and quick rolls, which force rotations and scramble defenses. “I can’t touch the top of the backboard, but I can damn sure touch right under the top of the backboard,” Howard crows. “Whatever I lost, whatever was taken from me, I want to get it bac