Dwight Howard's free agent saga finally ended Friday night with the free agent center deciding once and for all to leave the Los Angeles Lakers and join the Houston Rockets. He did so officially by releasing a statement on Twitter and changing his avatar pic to the sleek photoshop above. It was a relatively low-key, no-nonsense way to make the most highly anticipated free agent announcement of the summer. You could even say Dwight Howard was classy in the way he handled things, telling certain teams they were out of contention and even flying back to inform the Lakers in person he was going to join the Rockets. Furthermore, Howard is taking an unprecedented step in leaving the star-studded Lakers in his playing prime and taking less money to go to a smaller market and play with James Harden and company in Houston. In a post-Decision world, surely Howard deserves some credit for taking these steps.
But it's never that simple. You see, we've been conditioned to think Dwight Howard is an indecisive flip flopper who can't make a decision to save his life, whether it be his basketball career or what to order at the drive thru. And to be truthful, Howard has earned every bit of his reputation with the circus that played out in Orlando.
However, yesterday it was the reporting – accurate and inaccurate – which fed the narrative of Dwight Howard being a flip flopper and we were all along for the merry ride. Making light of Dwight Howard's indecision and child-like behavior is an industry in its own for sportswriters and bloggers. But when the dust settled last night, one couldn't help but think Howard was merely a pawn amidst the constant flow of information that emerged from NBA reporters and their sources in social media. Dwight Howard's decision making process appeared to have never changed on Friday, but that didn't stop rumors, reports, and the sports universe thinking otherwise.
It wasn't Dwight Howard who flip flopped on us, it was the hours of tweets, reports, and sources that flip flopped on Dwight Howard.
It all started in mid afternoon when USA Today's Sam Amick was the first to definitively report Howard had chosen the Rockets over the Lakers. It was the scoop every NBA reporter was chasing and he got it first…
— Sam Amick (@sam_amick) July 5, 2013
Almost immediately though, things got stupid. Howard's agent told Yahoo's Adrian Wojnarowski that Dwight hadn't made his decision yet, whipping up a frenzy of speculation that maybe he had second thoughts…
Dwight Howard's agent, Dan Fegan tells Y! Sports: "Dwight has not finalized his decision."
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) July 5, 2013
Then came word from "sources" that the extra money he was leaving behind in Los Angeles was weighing on Howard's mind and he had second thoughts. Those reports seen here from ESPNLA's Dave McMenamin and HoopsWorld's Alex Kennedy stoked the #DwightMare fire even more. It all came to a head when Chris Broussard's Sources sent this tweet in the early evening hours…
Source: D12 has landed in LA & told Lakers it's 50-50 btwn them and the Rockets. He's having 2nd thoughts about leaving $30 mill on table
— Chris Broussard (@Chris_Broussard) July 6, 2013
36 minutes later, the Lakers released a statement confirming Dwight Howard was not going to return to the team. It's like all we needed was a little misdirection from Chris Broussard's Sources to finally bring the drama to an end. If only we knew that was the key to ending the madness this whole time! Minutes after that, Howard changed his Twitter avatar and it was all over. So what about that flight back to LA where Dwight was reportedly plucking rose petals or playing a game of eeny meeny miny moe?
Dwight Howard's plan was always to meet with the Lakers a final time and tell MItch Kupchak of his decision.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) July 6, 2013
Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.
So Howard wasn't flip flopping on the flight back to Los Angeles… which means none of the Friday night drama adds up at all.
In fact, Dwight Howard comes out of this saga looking relatively good compared to his camp who sprung more leaks than the Titanic and the NBA media who were all over the map. Why would Dwight Howard's agent go on the record to Wojo and say his client hadn't made a decision after the initial Amick report and offer contradictory info? Why FEED THE NARRATIVE OF YOUR OWN CLIENT'S INDECISIVENESS? Why not just give a no comment? Why not wait a few hours until you can actually say something? For that matter, to all the sources in and around Dwight Howard that couldn't wait to feed every last detail of his thought process to the media, did nobody realize all they were doing was making Howard look bad?
For that matter, do we blame the sources or the reporters for the carnival that unfolded throughout Friday? In this day and age of social media where reporters are tasked with gathering as much exclusive information as possible, should we blame the scores of NBA beat men and women for tweeting every last detail of Howard's decision? I'm not so sure. With reporting through social media becoming more of a premium, it's the nature of the times for reporters to produce as much information as possible as quickly as possible. The situation got messy throughout Friday, but with the texts and calls and tweets flowing in and out of Howard's camp it was bound to happen that way.
Perhaps it's a lesson for reporters to share less moving forward before things get out of control as they did with Dwight Howard, but I'm not sure that's a desired result. We crave information more than anything in this sports culture. The takeaway moving forward has to be an increased focus on accuracy in reporting (on both sides) as it was the misinformation about Howard's flip flopping on his ride back to Los Angeles that was the King Kong sized monkey wrench in the equation.
Yes, perhaps Howard deserves some scorn for not exerting more control over his associates to keep quiet, but none of these windy roads appear to go back to the big man. The information and misinformation all emerged from various reports throughout the day and each one of us was more than happy to soak it in, try out our stand-up routines in 140 characters, and grab the popcorn. Apparently, it was everyone but Dwight Howard that was invested in his flip flopping this time.