The Washington Wizards are looking to fill their supersize hole at center with a player once known as “Superman.”
Dwight Howard, who was traded to the Brooklyn Nets from the Charlotte Hornets before the NBA draft, wants a buyout to become an unrestricted free agent. Once the trade becomes official and terms of Howard’s buyout are completed, the Wizards plan to be at the front of the line to offer a contract to the three-time defensive player of the year and eight-time all-star, according to several people in the league familiar with the team’s plans.
Howard remains in a holding pattern. The trade from Charlotte to Brooklyn will not become official until the end of the league’s annual moratorium on transactions at 12:01 a.m. July 6. At that point, the Nets and Howard are expected to enter into negotiations over a possible buyout, and Howard will then have to clear waivers. Once that happens, Washington will be among the favorites to work a deal with the 14-year veteran.
Although Washington has surpassed the luxury-tax threshold with more than $124 million in salaries devoted to 13 players, the team still has some financial flexibility remaining. The team lost out on re-signing Mike Scott but can offer a free agent $5.3 million in a mini mid-level exception.
The Wizards also can entice Howard with a starting job in the wake of trading Marcin Gortat to the Los Angeles Clippers for Austin Rivers, and the appealing position of playing for a playoff team alongside five-time all-star point guard John Wall. Also, Washington represents a potential place for Howard to sign a veteran minimum’s deal while cleaning up a sullied reputation ahead of next year’s free agency bonanza.
While Washington waits to make its move, the team continues to fill out its roster — agreeing to a one-year veteran minimum deal with Jeff Green on Tuesday and claiming second-year player Thomas Bryant off waivers Monday.
Though Howard has turned into a journeyman over the past several years of his career — by the start of the 2018-19 season, he will have played for four teams in four consecutive seasons — he was once considered the premiere big man of the league. Known for his strength and durability, Howard missed just seven games through the first seven years of his career while starring for the Orlando Magic. Over that seven-year stretch, Howard played 36 minutes per game while averaging 18.2 points, 12.9 rebounds and 2.2 blocks.
Many teams shirked at defending Howard straight up and resorted to intentionally fouling the notoriously shaky free throw shooter. Over the course of his career, Howard has shot 56.6 percent from the foul line.
Though free throws might have been a Kryptonite, Howard showed his dominance in other areas. During the 2008 NBA Slam Dunk Contest, Howard saved his most dramatic attempt for last. Howard donned a red cape and revealed a tightfitting Superman undershirt for a dunk in which he catapulted from inside the free throw line, caught an alley-oop pass and spiked the ball through the rim.
Howard secured his superhero status on that night. But in recent years, he has lost much of that glow while staying in the news for less flattering headlines. Last season, Howard served a one-game suspension after picking up his 16th technical foul. Also, Howard was fined a total $60,000 for separate incidents of making obscene gestures.
Last month in an interview with ESPN, Howard expressed a desire to pick up his career and remake his reputation.
“I want to be in a situation where I have an opportunity to help a team win,” Howard told ESPN. “That’s my only goal. All I need is a real chance and a clean slate where it’s not people talking about my past.”
Tim Bontemps contributed to this report.