Dwight Howard grumbling about the team he's playing on has quickly become a fixture of the NBA offseason. His constant search for validation led to messy breakups with the Magic, Lakers, and Rockets, and he appears to be on the same track with the Atlanta Hawks.
After Howard and the Hawks got bounced from the postseason by the Washington Wizards, Atlanta held their annual exit interviews for players and staffers. Howard—whose role fluctuated wildly from game to game in the playoffs—told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution how unhappy he was with arrangement:
It was very difficult. I want to play. I want to be out on the floor. I want to make a difference. I want to make an impact, and I can’t do that on the bench.
It hurts. 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 that wasn’t as good as yours, I’m pretty sure you’d be pissed, too. That’s how it is in basketball.
Being unhappy about playing time is one thing, but the implication of the quote is that Howard is putting down the players getting minutes he feels belong to him. Though he may be justified in feeling he's a better player than Mike Muscala—the beneficiary of more minutes when Howard hits the bench—Howard still hasn't figured out some things are better kept in-house. A player of his stature is well aware how far and how fast his words travel.
Even Howard's return to his hometown of Atlanta, which should have been a feel-good story, was initially haunted by ghosts of his basketball past. He admitted in the offseason that his relationship with Rockets star James Harden wasn't as good as it should have been, and by observing the success of both parties since his departure, you can connect the dots of blame pretty easily. Houston just ripped off 55 wins behind Harden's MVP-caliber season—a 14-game improvement over their performance last year—while the Hawks lost five more games than the previous season and exited the playoffs in the first round.
Howard has been playing the "It's not me, it's you" game for the better part of five seasons now. When he still had the top-end athleticism that made him a Defensive Player of the Year, teams were happy to tolerate it. But he might wear out his welcome in his hometown rather quickly if he continues down this path.