Friday, January 29, 2010

The Josh Howard Enigma

How much has he been a hot topic lately?  There are the reports he's being shopped around, yet again.  (I have an excellent source confirming as much).  There's the recent story about his improved attitude.  You can see how his play has evolved or devolved as many would say.   In October, I weighed in on what I thought was a reinvigorated, more mature Josh Howard.  On media day in October, Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry both called Howard this team's "x-factor" in conversations they had with me.  I don't think he's proven to be that factor and, frankly, it seems like he's not much of a positive factor on the court at all.

No one really knows what's up with Howard, from the physical pain he might still be enduring from the ankle problem to wherever he his mentally.  We can guess, speculate and talk but we don't know anything.  Very few people do.  What I do know is what I have seen from him over the years.

I first met him at an offseason workout shortly after the Mavs drafted him.  He had that shy enthusiasm you could expect from anyone in his position.  He was friendly and nervous at the same time.  He was impressed when I mentioned I had a friend with the same name and I stupidly joked that "I'll always remember yours!".  He actually gave me nice courtesy laugh.

I have seen him overcome by tears when dedicating a basketball court for which he personally wrote a check to build.  Say whatever you want, but he does a lot for others and has dedication to giving back.  He does a lot philanthropic contributions of both time and money that don't get camera-time.  That always has and always will impress me.  

At the NBA All-Star game in Las Vegas, sort of the peak of his career, he was interested and concerned about me and my photographer's schedule and curious what we were going to do in Vegas.  He was genuinely interested in how we were covering All-Star weekend and our plans one particular evening (it wasn't exciting as his, I'm sure). 

Then I saw that real change.  Discussing his pot use before a playoff game on the radio, the playoff birthday party and the national anthem nightmare.  It affected the way he interacted with just about everyone.  That led to the "treat him like fragile glass" approach the Mavericks have seemed to take with him.  Howard is the poster child for positive reinforcement.  From when he plays well on the court to when he gives a good interview, it's an accomplishment.  It's not a knock on the approach, it's just interesting to me.

The Mavericks know they need more from him.  They think he can play selfishly when he gets the ball and you've seen him be ineffective (3-10, 7 points vs Phoenix just last night).  They're looking for a solution and I think it's going to be to move him at some point.  I know many Mavericks fans are ready for that.  Perhaps Howard is, as well.  One veteran player told me he was sitting at practice one day with the team for which he'd played 10 years.  He was sitting there, miserable, and said he had a moment of clarity and realized he wanted out of that team, that situation and out of that sick feeling he would get in his stomach when we goes to practice.

What team would be a good fit for him?  Golden State comes to mind - a reunion with Nellie.  Many think a move with won't happen until the offseason so Dallas can take advantage of the great Summer of 2010 NBA Sale.  Who knows.  My question is what will you continue to get from him and unless he changes/evolves/improves yet again is he more of a liability than asset?
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