Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard’s name is in the news, meaning the NBA trade deadline must be on approach.
It’s only natural Howard’s name comes up. He’s Howard, for one. Two, the Rockets look like pretenders in the Western Conference, sitting in seventh place at 22-20 while leaders such as the Golden State Warriors (37-4) and San Antonio Spurs (36-6) continue to scoff down at the rest of the standings.
Howard has played out of his mind as of late to help the Rockets sit on a 6-4 record in their last 10. But Brian T. Smith of the Houston Chronicle provided a quote from general manager Daryl Morey from before the season and a fresh offering from Howard to explain just how cloudy things look around the Rockets ahead of the trade deadline:
“We’re just focused on this season. So is Dwight,” Morey said. “If … he as a player play(s) like we know he’s capable (of) … all that stuff takes care of itself.”
Howard describing the state of the Rockets halfway through what could be his final season in H-Town: “We’ve got to decide what we’re going to do. Middle of the pack doesn’t sound good and neither does it look good.”
Nobody is talking trade just yet. They might not. But Smith made a point to bring all of this up considering Morey is the guy who canned his head coach this year just 11 games into the season. Not living up to expectations was the culprit there and it is a cloud that has chased the Rockets through the halfway point of the season.
Howard sits on an average of 33.1 minutes per game with 14.2 points, 12.0 rebounds and 1.7 blocks. He’s also 30 years old and has a player option for next year. Houston’s not exactly in the best position from a salary-cap standpoint and the chance Howard wants to opt out to chase an even bigger max contract while new TV money rolls into the picture seems strong. While all signs out of Houston point to Morey and Co. writing as big a check as necessary to get Howard back, odd things can happen on the open market and the above quote isn’t exactly the most convincing of his belief in where the Rockets are headed.
Maybe it just isn’t meant to be. Morey shocked the globe by pairing Howard with James Harden. It looked good on paper, sure, but it seemed like there were two extreme options—either the combo would have the franchise consistently dueling with the Warriors and Spurs or it would be massively ruined expectations and sluggish play and shrugging quotes while nobody can figure out how to make things better.
The Rockets seem focused on the now. Why not? They still sit in playoff range. There, anything can happen, especially if the Harden-Howard combo can get hot. But it’s hard to say where the franchise heads if the team hits on another cold streak and falls out of the postseason conversation ahead of the deadline. As Smith points out, it’s almost impossible to predict how the Rockets will act after the sudden changes earlier this year.
Keep a close eye on the Rockets. Rest assured the rest of the league will.