LAS VEGAS — Dwight Howard was preparing for a Saturday morning flight to Las Vegas to meet up with his team, the Washington Wizards. By Friday night, he no longer had a team to call his own.
The Wizards agreed to trade Howard to Memphis for veteran sharpshooter C.J. Miles, according to several people with knowledge of the transaction. The deal allows the Wizards to add another wing capable of playing either shooting guard or small forward, addressing a major roster need. The move also ends Howard’s brief stint in Washington, his fourth team in as many years, after just nine games in a Wizards uniform and season-ending spinal surgery in November.
Where and when Howard plays again is in question; the Grizzlies are expected to waive Howard and save about $3.1 million in payroll.
Howard was due to make $5.6 million next season; Miles is due about $8.7 million.
Miles, 32, moved around last season, starting with the eventual champion Toronto Raptors before landing in Memphis as part of a February trade.
Although Miles averaged just 6.4 points while splitting his time between the two franchises, he has been a 35.9 percent three-point shooter throughout his 14-year career. As the Wizards know, Miles can be difficult to guard when he gets hot. In a November 2015 game in Washington, Miles connected on 8 of 9 shots from beyond the arc, one of three games he has shot better than 60 percent from three while taking at least six attempts against the Wizards.
For Howard, 33, the trade marks another detour in a career that once looked like it could be among the most dominant in the league. Howard has played in eight all-star games, was named defensive player of the year three times and, has led the NBA in rebounding and blocks, respectively, five times. However, Howard’s time in Washington did not feature the same Superman feats. He averaged just 12.8 points and 9.2 rebounds in those nine games.
Around this time last year, the Wizards had envisioned Howard as an athletic big man to pair with guard John Wall and signed the center to a two-year contract with a player option for the 2019-20 season. Howard, too, had pictured a bright future in Washington.
“We are going to really just shock a lot of people,” Howard said during his introduction as a Wizard last July. “Today and for the rest of my career here, which I plan to be here until I retire, it’s about this team. It’s about us winning.”
However, those hopes vanished when Howard arrived at training camp with a back injury that endured for weeks.
After the surgery, Howard returned to Washington in late February to work with the team’s player development staff after spending the first three months of his recovery in his hometown of Atlanta. Less than a month later, Howard tweaked his hamstring during one of the drills and did not return to the court again.
Although Howard received praise from Coach Scott Brooks for his positive attitude, the team clearly intended to move on from the former superstar for reasons beyond basketball. Besides the injury, negative attention mired Howard’s time in Washington.
In November during Howard’s healthy spell, after a game inside Capital One Arena, he returned to the court for some extra work. However, even on his home turf, an arena worker heckled Howard while cleaning up trash in the upper bowl.
Later that month, a man alleged that Howard had threatened him not to reveal details of their relationship. In March, the man, Masin Elije, filed a lawsuit against Howard. According to the celebrity website TMZ, Howard denied making violent threats against Elije.
Howard has spent the offseason in Atlanta, training and returning to shape. He had lost 20 pounds and started to feel optimistic about the future again. Recently, Howard was a guest on the “Pardon My Take” podcast, and while sitting between the hosts in the back seat of a van, he shared an enthusiastic update.
“Man, my body feels amazing. I’ve been in the gym the last couple of months, trying to get my body right. I feel good, man,” Howard said. “My legs are back up under me. Now it’s just about getting the strength to play an 82-game season.”
The Wizards’ summer league team plays its first game Saturday in Las Vegas, and Howard was planning to support his teammates. Now his plans are uncertain.
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