In recent seasons, each day that passed in the new year brought Dwight Howard 24 hours closer to a looming deadline of uncertainty. Howard’s name had been at the center of trade rumors, with buzz of him landing in various destinations around the NBA casting a shadow of uncertainty over the direction of his career.
This season is the first time in recent years that Howard is out of the spotlight as the trade deadline nears on Feb. 20. Last summer he signed with the Houston Rockets as a free agent after a tumultuous season with the Los Angeles Lakers, the team he was traded to by the Orlando Magic in August of 2012 in a blockbuster deal.
Trade rumors began during his tenure with the Magic and continued last season as it become apparent his addition to the Lakers was not going to put them on the path to championship contention and since he could leave as an unrestricted free agent after the season. Howard had been linked to teams across the league, noise that got to him as the deadline grew closer.
“For me I think it (the trade deadline) was different from a lot of players,” Howard told Basketball Insiders. “A lot of attention was on me and what teams were going to do that day. It’s tough. You have everybody asking what’s going to happen, what you’re going to do, all that stuff. I had a big headache and I was just happy when it was over with.”
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Howard’s peers tried to prepare him for a potential move. They shared stories of their past experiences, including those who had been traded while they were in flight with their team. Anything could happen at any time.
“You can’t help but look at the clock,” Howard said. “It’s a tough situation for anybody.”
Even as the trade deadline came and went, speculation surrounding Howard never completely ceased. In the summer of 2012, reports emerged that Howard requested a trade from the Magic. Unlike midseason when he didn’t know what would happen, Howard believed his next move was clear.
“I thought the Brooklyn thing was going to come through at the end of the season,” Howard said of a potential trade to the Nets. “It was something that was promised, but it didn’t happen. Once it didn’t happen I figured everything happens for a reason. I just let it go. I was upset for a while, but I just let it go.”
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With rumors behind him, Howard is averaging 18.1 points, 12.7 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game for the 26-14 Houston Rockets. His new team is ranked fifth in the Western Conference and Howard has quickly settled into a system with the likes of James Harden, Chandler Parsons and Jeremy Lin.
Ten years into his NBA career, Howard knows how quickly things can change in an instant. This season, though, he may not look at the clock as often at the trade deadline.