Dwight Howard famously wore out his welcome with his first three NBA teams—the Orlando Magic, the Los Angeles Lakers, and the Houston Rockets.
But things appeared to be different with the Atlanta Hawks. He'd returned to his hometown and seemed content in his role as a good rim protector, rebounder, and finisher who's also not the primary or secondary scoring option.
Then the playoffs came along.
Howard saw his minutes dip from 30 per game in the regular season to 26 in his team's first-round matchup with the Washington Wizards. He barely played in crunch time, either: Across the six games, he logged only 16 fourth-quarter minutes.
While he didn't say anything outright disparaging about the Hawks in his exit interview following the close of their season, he did not appear happy with his role in the first-round series.
"It’s very difficult. I want to play," he said of his limited minutes in the series. "I want to be out on the floor. I want to make a difference, make an impact and can’t do that on the bench."
A reporter then asked if he thought the matchup with the Wizards frontcourt had anything to do with his playing time.
"No, I didn’t. It doesn’t matter about a matchup," Howard replied. "I want to play. It doesn’t matter who’s out there. I want to do the best for my team and this city. It’s why I came here. So, it is upsetting. I want to get out there and play. You work hard and you watch it being from taken from you—not the coach taking it, but Washington taking the opportunity from us, moving to the next round."
He repeatedly used the word "pissed" to describe his emotions during the interview:
It feels bad every year. You’ve got to watch somebody hold up a trophy, it hurts. And you know you work hard, so it pisses you off. I’m sure if you wrote the best stories in the world and nobody read your stories, and they told you to stop writing and you saw somebody else’s story who wasn’t as good as yours getting put out there, I’m pretty sure you’ll be pissed, too. So, yeah, that’s how it is in basketball. You work hard. Sometimes you don’t win, but it piss you off, because you want to win. If you don’t want to win, you shouldn’t be playing.
Before this bitter ending, Howard's first season with the Hawks was a success. He averaged 13.5 points, 12.7 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks per game, and almost singlehandedly made them a respectable rebounding team after they had been one of the worst squads on the glass in recent years.
He's owed over $47 million over the next two seasons, and their best player, Paul Millsap, might leave in free agency.