Jeff Schultz

This AJC sports blogger takes things seriously when he has to, but he really would rather not

Hawks' signing of Howard: Wrong player, wrong time (updated)


The Hawks are signing Dwight Howard . For three years. In 2016.

This is not a fire drill. It might be an actual fire.

This isn't the Dwight Howard who was a perennial All-Star for most of his career in Orlando and led the Magic to the finals once, even while some believed he underachieved for a player of his size and skill.

This the Dwight Howard who looked like a petulant 6-year-old on the way out the door in Orlando and likely got coach Stan Van Gundy fired . This is the Dwight Howard who had one ill-fated season with the Los Angeles Lakers and frustrated the team's leader, Kobe Bryant (back when the Lakers still were somewhat the Lakers and Kobe was still somewhat Kobe). This is the Dwight Howard who certainly did nothing to distinguish himself for three years in Houston, instead showing himself to be on the downside of his career.

I don't get it.

I'm sure Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer and general manager Wes Wilcox, the two men entrusted to build and maintain the roster since the Danny Ferry was put in season-long purgatory and eventually fired after last year, will tell us they have a plan. They will try to convince the masses this is the right move for this franchise at this time.

Good luck with that.

Question: What does this mean for free-agent center Al Horford? Because if Budenholzer has actually made the decision to move on from one of the most respected and well-liked players in the NBA in Horford and replace him with one of the most lampooned and disliked players, that's not going to play well. Not in the locker room and not in the stands.

UPDATE: The Hawks, somewhat surprisingly, have come to terms with small forward Kent Bazemore, giving him a whopping four-year, $70 million contract. That could pave the way for Horford's exit. The Hawks in theory could trade Paul Millsap and move Horford to power forward but that would mean having three new huge contracts on the front line (Howard, Bazemore, Horford). Horford has a variety of options in a signing or a sign-and-trade but Boston has been central to most of the speculation, followed by Houston.

If the Hawks still intend to re-sign Horford and envision a lineup with Horford and Howard together, co-existence -- both on and off the court -- becomes an interesting dynamic. I'm not using "interesting" in a positive way there.

Let's be clear: Howard still has some skills. He's on the wrong side of 30, but he can rebound and play defense and provide the Hawks with the physical presence up front that they've sorely missed. But to assume this can work is to assume Howard suddenly has been humbled and is ready to co-exist in a team climate.

Is there any evidence to suggest that, because maybe I missed it.

Two years ago, the Hawks won 60 games, reached the Eastern Conference finals and evolved into one of the NBA's most likable teams and certainly the most watchable product in Atlanta pro sports. In the season that just ended, they slipped to 48 wins and a second-round exit. Now they've signed a player who for the past five years has been mocked more than he has been praised.

"Dwight Howard keys turnaround" is a storyline that reads more like fantasy than fact.

This might be the Hawks' plan but it doesn't look like a plan for success. It looks like a plan for disaster.

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About the Author

Jeff Schultz is a general sports columnist and blogger who isn't afraid to share his opinion, which may not necessarily jibe with yours.