After reading - or rather, rollercoastering - through Dwight Howard's recent PR marathon, two things became abundantly clear:
1) Dwight Howard needs a PR agent. With all his resources he needs to focus on picking one up ASAP.
2) The Knicks should do everything they can to pick him up.
The reasons are pretty simple. With all the question marks surrounding him, rather than rebuild his reputation on the court, he has taken to publicly throwing all his colleagues under the bus, albeit under the veil of a bewildered, soft tone. Shoulders shrugged, palms to the sky, Howard begins each sentence with a version of "I don't understand how this could happen, but...".
Observing the situation unfold is akin to watching the world's longest, and most awkward job interview. If the most critical piece of advice given to most job seekers is to never speak ill of prior employers, Howard takes it a step further, donning an MTA uniform as he throws colleagues under the bus, driving over them and sheepishly looking back, muttering, "Oops!"
In his most recent press debacle for ESPN's True Hoop with Jackie McMullan, he takes to throwing Daryl Morey under the tires:
Howard: "I felt like my role was being reduced. I went to [Rockets general manager] Daryl [Morey] and said, 'I want to be more involved.' Daryl said, 'No, we don't want you to be.' My response was, 'Why not? Why am I here?' It was shocking to me that it came from him instead of our coach. So I said to him, 'No disrespect to what you do, but you've never played the game. I've been in this game a long time. I know what it takes to be effective.'''
then blaming his high personal standards D12 for his inability to shoot:
ESPN: So you don't take perimeter jumpers because you are afraid you will miss them?
Howard: "I don't like messing up. I didn't want to turn on the TV and see people say, 'Dwight is taking all those outside shots, he's screwing around, he doesn't care, he doesn't want to win.' So that's the war I'll be having in my head. I'm working on it. I have a sports psychologist I used in Houston and I have one in Minnesota. If my spiritual and mental game is right, the physical part will follow.''
followed up by a dose of equivocation on James Harden:
ESPN: Your relationship with Harden seems to have deteriorated along with the team's performance this season. What happened?
Howard: "I don't know. ... I want to figure that out, too. I've been trying to wrap my mind around this season, what went wrong, and sometimes you can allow outside things to interrupt the circle. That probably happened with us.''
As nonplussed as his interview tour appears, understand that there is no intention herein to skewer Howard. There is no need when he has skewered himself. Rather, this an opportunity to understand that Howard simply does not understand.
Howard does not understand where his game fits, how he needs to project his media personality, how he needs to interact professionally and how all these pieces fit into his career future. D12 is concerned his stock has dropped, but has not come to terms with the damage his press tour is doing for his marketability.
His woes can be answered in two easy steps. First, hire a PR agent to take on the pressure of messaging. Howard is high profile and he needs a partner with media savvy to handle the heat, allowing him to focus on basketball.
Next, have his agent ring up Phil Jackson. No one is better qualified to play "Howard Whisperer" than the Zen Master himself. Phil has taken troubled souls and righted their ships. Dennis Rodman broke down in tears during his Hall of Fame induction as he described Phil as the father he never had. If Phil could focus Rodman he can surely strum Howard's sensitive heartstrings.
Howard is well aware of the Zen Master's magic:
[The Lakers] asked me what coach I wanted. I said, 'Phil [Jackson].' - Dwight Howard, as told to ESPN
What's more, Howard fits Phil's schemes. He is an athletic rebounder and capable defender who likes to fight his way into the middle. Phil won six rings with the Bulls never relying on scoring from the center position.
Also, Howard has proven 12 years into his career that he will not develop exceptional footwork, post moves or a jump shot. On the other hand, there is one skill where he did demonstrate high acumen under Stan Van Gundy and that was passing from the interior. When Phil's fabled Triangle Offense often launches from the pivot with featured played like "center opposite," Howard will be readily available to answer the call as center.
With the Knicks poised to run and gun with a seven-foot tall gazelle in the form of Kristaps Porzingis, KP has the perfect game to cut and move off of Howard in the middle. KP also has the shooting touch to spread the floor giving Howard room to move. Bonus, the team does not place its focus on the three-ball, and neither does Dwight. With scorers like Carmelo Anthony, Afflalo and KP to take all the pressure, Howard, in an effort to rejuvenate his career and image, will have the ideal situation to blend seamlessly.
Howard laments he has not be utilized wisely and he is likely 110% correct in this assessment. Given that his skills mesh beautifully with the offense Phil has run diligently for 25 years, there are no mysteries or question marks as to where he will fit. Sign him the moment he opts out of his current contract.
Lastly, Howard craves drama. A perfect match because New York craves drama as well. Howard will get an all-you-can-eat media smorgasbord in the Big Apple. If obscurity is the fear, rest assured, the Big Apple will not allow it. New Yorkers love tales of reinvention. If Alex Rodriguez can earn showers of praise and affection after his controversies, D12 can certainly get all the fan love he desperately craves.
Better yet, he will be third or fourth in line for criticism behind Melo and KP, as he will not be expected to shoulder the Knicks success. Dwight says he wants to win but fans are not quite sure he means it. The same goes for the Knicks, but fans want to believe. The proving ground is right here, right now. All aboard!
Playing in New York he has nowhere to go but up - it's a no-brainer.