DWIGHT Howard had a happy start to his Atlanta homecoming, but he’s far from pleased with how his first full season with the Hawks ended.
In a report by Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Jeff Schultz, Howard was particularly disappointed in his reduced minutes and getting benched in fourth quarters near the end of the regular season and in the playoffs. The 31-year-old center even used the word ‘pissed’ thrice to describe how he felt about how his season ended after watching from the bench as the Wizards booted out the Hawks in the first round of the playoffs.
“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,” said Howard on Saturday (Sunday, Manila time).
Howard played 16 of a total of 72 fourth quarter minutes in the Hawks playoff battle against the Wizards, and even sat out the entire last period in two games. His postseason playing time dropped from 29.7 minutes in the regular season to 26.2 minutes against Washington. His production also dipped with averages of just 8 points and 10.7 rebounds in the playoffs.
The Hawks center denied he was struggling with the team’s offense and that he was physically fit, but mentally he struggled to understand his reduced role that was not aligned to the plan he signed on as a free agent.
“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,” Howard said to liken his struggles to Schultz and other reporters.
Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer was aware of Howard’s frustrations and explained that he made the move to pick up the pace in offense and spread out the floor better. He also said he’ll talk to the disgruntled star, who will likely be back next season as he has two more years and $47.3 million in his deal, in the coming weeks to sort things out.
“It’s not just about Dwight. I understand the questions, I understand Dwight’s frustrations. But offense is about five guys, and Dwight brings a lot to the table that can help us be a good offensive team. All of us have to figure out how to make it better,” he said.