Posted May 24, 2013

Nonstop Dwight Howard rumors make Chris Paul look magical by comparison

Ben Golliver, Chris Paul, Dwight Howard, Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers
Chris Paul (right) and Dwight Howard are the two biggest names in the 2013 free-agent class. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Chris Paul (right) and Dwight Howard are the two biggest names in the 2013 free-agent class. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

He forced his way out of a small market to head to Los Angeles, leaving his old team with no choice but to rebuild from the ground up. Everyone seems to agree that he got his coach dismissed and that he’s made his voice known in player personnel decisions. He’s got a smile as wide as the Pacific, but has been known to pout and often addresses referees like they are butlers who served his dinner cold. He hasn’t firmly committed to his team even though the organization’s entire summer plans — heck, the franchise’s next half-decade, or more — hinge on his return as a free agent. His team bombed out of the playoffs early, again, leaving him ringless for another summer. He even managed to get ejected from the last game of the season, one last fruitless act of frustration at the end of a year that, ultimately, ended in disappointment.

Oh, you thought I was talking about Dwight Howard? No, no, I was talking about Chris Paul, Teflon point guard, the man whose last few years mirror Howard’s in so many ways while their images and likeability only continue to diverge. How is it that two stars — regarded for years as arguably the best at their respective positions — now find themselves on polar opposite sides of public perception?

Maybe Howard needs a fake TV twin — Donald Howard, maybe — to make him appear more charming and accessible? Maybe Howard needs to start bringing family members with him to postgame press conferences? Maybe he should add some alley-oop passing practice to his summer workout routine?

It’s hard not to be annoyingly facetious this week, as the Howard-related rumors come down for the third straight year. Never has a man with no knowledge of his own thinking produced so many sources who have knowledge of his thinking. We all try to keep up — it’s the Lakers, or the Rockets, or the Mavericks, or the Hawks, or the Warriors, or the … go ahead and blink, I see your eyes glazing over already.

Here we are, yet again, wondering what Howard will do — and, in some quarters, vilifying him for his continued indecision — while Paul still hasn’t given the “I’m coming back, 100 percent” public declaration with a little more than a month left until free agency opens. The man with hands and feet so quick he can crossover to the hoop or take off in transition in a split-second has made it this far without catching any truly meaningful flak for Del Negro’s departure, the Clippers’ step back in the postseason, or the uncertainty of his future.

He’s fully entitled to do his due diligence — and to milk the saga for increased exposure, if he so desires — but we do need to acknowledge the bulletproof rep he’s fashioned over these last few years. Did Paul even get mentioned in the same breath as Deron Williams this week? Is anyone waiting on pins and needles or churning out rumors by the bucketful in advance of his free-agency announcement? Has anyone written the “Is Chris Paul a winner?” column yet? After all, in eight years, he has zero rings and only two playoff-series victories, right?

Dwight Howard has reportedly expressed interested in signing with the Rockets and Mavericks this offseason.

Dwight Howard has reportedly expressed interested in signing with the Rockets and Mavericks this offseason. (Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images)

The biggest difference between Howard and Paul, without question, is the perception of their credibility. Howard’s went out the door when he took his angst public in Orlando, it got kicked down the road when Van Gundy pulled back the curtain and it fled town when reports and rumors gobbled up his season with the Lakers. He played through pain and led the league in rebounding, and it didn’t much matter. Until he finally signs a long-term contract, he seemingly can’t be trusted.

Paul’s credibility, on the other hand, remains nearly spotless, to the point that we seem to have collectively assumed that he will simply re-sign with the Clippers because it’s a very, very good situation and he seems smart enough to realize that the grass in his yard is quite green, and could easily get even greener over the next few years. The average observer can climb inside Paul’s head and see a laundry list of criteria — great market, very good roster, lots of influence on important decisions, tons of extra money if he re-signs with the Clippers for five years, etc. — that will compel him to make the right call. Try to climb inside Howard’s head and you’ll get lost in a corn maze composed entirely of empty Skittles wrappers.

To keep that credibility, Paul has been much more discreet and savvy than Howard, no doubt. He might strategically whine about foul calls but he hasn’t made a spectacle of himself off the court. He’s led on the court and in the locker room, and his teammates tend to gush about his impact, whereas Howard’s have often sounded confused, or maybe even slightly put off, by his personality and, in the case of some of his former teammates, disgusted and insulted by his statements.

This isn’t just a persona thing. Paul has caught some breaks, too. His trade from the Hornets to the Clippers was legitimately shocking, with reports that the NBA league office, which technically owned the pre-Pelicans at the time, first nixed a trade that would have sent him to the Lakers. When the dust settled, David Stern was the enemy, Paul’s new teammates had already made “Lob City” into a perfect million-dollar catchphrase and he was greeted with open arms as the savior with the skill and personality to turn a downtrodden franchise on its head (which he has). There was barely any time to mourn for the years of lottery appearances facing Hornets fans with all this fresh, new excitement surrounding the Clippers. The timing was crucial too: getting it done right after the lockout was the perfect time to flip the page, as Paul avoided months of agonizing questions about his future during the season.

(Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)

Chris Paul led the Clippers to the best season in franchise history in 2012-13. (Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)

Other circumstances have fallen into place as well. He came into an organization where expectations had been rock-bottom forever. Blake Griffin is a legitimate star player without the accompanying ego that might make him revolt when Paul wants to drive the cart. The Clippers took some risks last summer — signing Jamal Crawford after a down year and Matt Barnes after some legal trouble — that paid off nicely. The “culture” of the Clippers powered the club to some new heights — a perfect month in December, the first division title in franchise history — and the core pieces, once Paul does commit, are locked into fairly synchronized timelines deal-wise.

Pondering the treatment of Howard relative to Paul leads to what feels like an inevitable conclusion: It’s too late for D12. Even if Howard declares his allegiance to the Lakers for the next five years tomorrow, there will be many who see it as too little, too late. It’s even possible that winning a title wouldn’t totally erase all the negativity surrounding him, as LeBron James’ Decision took less than an hour, while Howard’s Indecision is running on three years now. He might still be able to salvage this mess through dominant play and rings, but it’s hard to bet on a full repair. And if he leaves Los Angeles to go ring-chasing elsewhere? Forget about it. The character-torching will begin anew.

Which only serves to make Paul’s positioning that much more impressive. He’s set up for another round of savior talk once he re-ups. Whoever the Clippers hire to replace Del Negro will surely get the “Chris Paul stamp of approval.” Paul will probably share in the credit for any upcoming signings in free agency, just as he did last year. This is all starting to feel a lot like that commercial Paul stars in, where he disappears in a cloud of smoke as defenders try in vain to locate him. He’s running public relations circles around all of us and, what’s more, it’s not even upsetting to admit that. It’s hard to begin to feel duped because the depth of his popularity and credibility are so magnetic. How does one get angry if Paul still remains, somehow, so appealing?

Magic Johnson said recently that the Clippers are the new “Showtime,” which of course makes Paul the heir apparent to Magic himself. When you think about it, only a true magician could leave an audience so happily befuddled when an amateur like Howard draws boos and tomatoes while performing a similar act.

57 comments
SukeMadiq
SukeMadiq

Paul would have failed badly with the Lakers, he would never have gotten along with KoMe.

JulesG
JulesG

I like this article....because when I saw Vinny Del Negro, who was led to believe he was safe in his job at the end of the season, all of a sudden get fired, then I knew it was over CP3. Sad that is how it works, and says so much about how crafty and shifty CP3 is on the low, but he has had a lot of help in covering that up in terms of his character. I remember the time he intentionally hit a kid in the man region in College and tried to act like it was an accident. I like his game, but I am not sold on him being this great guy. Not that that makes a difference on if I root for him or not, but at least he should be treated how anyone else who acts the same should be. And in this case, he isn't...so...

leehwgoc
leehwgoc

This article repeatedly takes the line that Paul is some sort of universally beloved icon.

When did that ever happen?

I know fellow fans by the dozens that disparage Paul at least as much as Howard.  Chris Paul the flopper.  Chris Paul the whiner.  Chris Paul the closet diva.  Chris Paul who has yet to demonstrate any genuine commitment to a particular team, Chris Paul who ring-chases but is still too greedy to refuse anything but a max deal in the process.

Chris Paul is a fantastic basketball player.  But it's been my impression that it's long established that he's a bit of a d-bag.

gwhjelm
gwhjelm

If Dwight Howard fashions himself as Superman, then why doesn't he win a championship every year? It seems that the players, coaches, and management on his team are kryptonite.  The fact is that he hasn't mixed well with the teams of his recent memory. Personally, I hope that he leaves the Laker's, and that the team that signs him will have to pay a hefty compensation to the Laker's, in return for his services. If Howard is the real Superman, than it must be from the alternative universe.  

NYKat
NYKat

Carmelo gets killed for not winning, Howard gets killed for not winning, Lebron got killed for not winning, this kid Paul has accomplished less than all of them in terms of postseason success, but the media won't touch him.



FelixNg
FelixNg

Never compare CP3 to Howard ever clown.

ezwriter69
ezwriter69

CP3 revealed his true self back in college, with the most egregious nut-punch I've ever seen, pre-meditated, and including a grab and twist... not for anything done to him, but for what the dude had said to the press the week before. Gutless soulless punk, zero class.

Mark4
Mark4

I don't remember CP3 presenting himself as a Christian young man, and then fathering multiple children out of wedlock.  DH12 didn't get the nickname Bible Kemp for nothing...

Timothy Clark
Timothy Clark

You could include Paul's deserved reputation as a dirty player (anyone remember his nut-punch in college?), and the fact that reports out of L.A. suggest some of his teammates have grown tired of his brow-beating style of 'leadership'. I think one explanation for why Paul gets a pass is the public perception that's he's an unselfish passer, which makes it harder to think of him as a selfish prick.

JonathanD
JonathanD

1. New Orleans got a MUCH better deal than Orlando did.

2. Chris Paul has said fewer stupid things in public than Howard has.

3. Chris Paul played like an MVP candidate, while Howard played like a borderline all-star.


See, I explained the whole difference in far fewer words.

Theo
Theo

First: Great article. Paul has never won a thing and he whines like a beetch. Second: Why aren't the Celtics being mentioned for Howard or Paul? Third: I hate Danny Ainge, he is destroying the C's.

donald5
donald5

There seems to be a stark distinction between how each of them is handling their almost identical situations.  Take Lebron in universe one and Lebron in universe 2.  Identical except that instead of the whole "decision" he decided to sign with Miami with little to no fanfare.  I know the situations are not the same but try to stay with me.  I guarantee you the public perception of Lebron 1 and Lebron 2 would be as different as the perception of Paul and Howard.

Sportsfan18
Sportsfan18

Howard is a phenomenal talent on the court.  He still did well this year after his back surgery.  The problem is that he isn't and won't ever be the "leader" of a professional basketball team.  Everyone is different.  It's nice when your best player is also your leader.  But the "leader" on each team isn't always the best player.  Leaders inspire, get others to follow etc...  Howard is a great talent.  Just don't hope/want or ask him to lead your team...  I don't know him of course, but if he wants to be the "man" and expects to be the "man" well then I think I'd shy away from him.  I know that talent wins in the NBA, as one truly great player has an easier time affecting the outcome with only four other teammates out there with him vs. 8 or 10 like in MLB or the NFL.  You can't fit the square peg into the round hole...  Dwight isn't a leader...

riley8
riley8

The main problem is that the fans think these players give a rat's behind about them.  Lebron James proved that with his famous TV special.

leehwgoc
leehwgoc

@FelixNg Why not?  The parallels come by the boatload.  Your fanboy bias doesn't change that, clown.

NYKat
NYKat

@FelixNg

WTF had CP3 accomplished in his career that merits this statement?

CP3 has never even taken a team to the Finals, even Howard has done that

timmytoes
timmytoes

@ezwriter69 Yeah, you are a schmuck if you bring up some tiny incident that happened 10 yrs ago, when he was a teenager.

D. Darqwon
D. Darqwon

@Mark4  What does any of that have to do with basketball?

If we are going to delve into personal lives let he who is without sin....

MattBugaj
MattBugaj

@Mark4 Agreed. Howard has made a habit out of making big promises and then not keeping them since he was a teenager. Someone along the way should have told him to just shut up and play.

ezwriter69
ezwriter69

@Timothy Clark He's normal sized, Howard's a giant... don't think that doesn't have a LOT to do with it.

pcwhite2
pcwhite2

@Timothy Clark 

Timothy, the ones crying about his "leadership" are apparently Griffin and DeAndre Jordan.  Both young men made no progress this season in their game, with Jordan completely disappearing at times.

Theo
Theo

@JonathanD Well done JD . . . let me add a wrinkle from my post please . . .AND Stern is a scumbag and SCG/Ron Jeremy has no job does he? . .sorry to piggyback JD just forgot to mention.

JonathanD
JonathanD

For #3, I meant to say "played like an MVP candidate for his new team".

doghockey
doghockey

@Theo Yes those two appearances in the Finals, with one of them ending in a championship, over the Lakers no less, and the six consecutive seasons in the playoffs, are the stuff of destruction.

Mark4
Mark4

@Theo Celtics have no cap room.  They may not even be able to use the MLE this year, depending on how things break.

DaytonMorgan
DaytonMorgan

Naaa.ESPN just had Lebron back all the time. You knew ESPN was going to repair Lebron rep after that year. BTW.. who did that corny commercial about Kids Congratulating Lebron for winning at the beginning of the season? WOW..that was just to much. I mean Dirk did not get one and he was trying for years...shiiit Kobe or Duncan never got one after winning 5 and 4 rings.

doolittle821
doolittle821

@riley8 Maybe Lebron doesn't care about fans but that was for charity, and he does more public charity than a lot of athletes.  On top of the fact that you're out of mind if you wouldn't pick him as a guy to lead your franchise.  I'd say caring about fans has very little to do with success

DavidosaurusCawston
DavidosaurusCawston

@NYKat@FelixNgHedo Turkolu took the Magic to the finals, not Howard. Rewatch those playoffs. Also, didn't CP3 when paired with West and Okafur run off like a 20 game win streak early in the season before he was traded?

timmytoes
timmytoes

@NYKat @FelixNg Name the last time a 6'0 star PG led his team to the finals dopey. I can think of one, Isiah, who had Hofers and a HoF coach. 

leehwgoc
leehwgoc

@timmytoes @ezwriter69 Yeah, you're a schmuck for dismissing it like it's nothing.

Get your nose out of his jock, dude, it's gross and undignified.

geewhiz
geewhiz

@doghockey @Theo Exactly.  What did people expect when that big 3 was assembled?  A 10 year run of dominance?  They probably win back to back if KG doesn't go down in '09.

Ainge doesn't exactly have a ton to build around...an injured Rondo and an inconsistent Green.  The rest are just solid role players (not including Pierce and KG who are on the eve of retirement).

DarrenZancan
DarrenZancan

@doghockey @Theo He wants to have his cake, eat it too and then have seconds apparently. I'm not a Celtics' fan, but they deserve respect for what they have done.

drm166
drm166

@doolittle821 @riley8 He raised 3 million for charity with "the decision."  He makes about 45 million per year in salary and endorsements.  I'm not sure the 3 million for charity was worth destroying his image.  He would probably more than make up for the 3 million in endorsements if he didn't make himself a villain in 'the decision.'

KevinTravers
KevinTravers

@geewhiz @doghockey @Theo  They probably win 3 in a row in KG doesn't go down in 09 and Perkins doesn't go down in game 6 in '10 (they were up 3-2 and their starting center goes down).

They were basically a 3 peat that had very bad luck with injuries.


DavidosaurusCawston
DavidosaurusCawston

@drm166 @doolittle821 @riley8 $3mil = 6.6% of $45mil. Who here has donated more than 6.6% of their yearly salary in recent memory? I give $20 a month to Greenpeace, which is thankfully not 6.6% of my earnings.

D. Darqwon
D. Darqwon

@drm166Are you seriously trying to diminish a guy raising $3mil for charity?

DaytonMorgan
DaytonMorgan

@drm166 @doolittle821 @riley8 not to mention a charity in one of the richest area in America. For all that he could of done it for a Cleveland charity?..just saying that the decision? was not about any dam charity.

cry1baby2usa
cry1baby2usa

@drm166 Interesting that now we are trying to say that raising 3 million for a charity is bad because he makes 45 million. 

Theo
Theo

@doolittle821 @drm166 @riley8 HE is a clown and a worthless public relations disaster. Dude can ball but everywhere else he's full on loser. We can all make dough kid so stop slurpin and go get yo own

doolittle821
doolittle821

@drm166 @doolittle821 @riley8 Please please please look at sales figures or something before you post.  He has the best selling shoe and throughout the season, the number 1 or 2 jersey, losing only for a little bit to Melo.  I don't think those are the numbers of a man with a destroyed image.  And do you realize that 3 million is a lot more money than plenty of other wealthy athletes deal out to good causes.  On top of the fact that the city he left and apparently "hates" him will be praying to the sports gods that he returns like the rumors are saying in 2014.  So a multi time MVP, an NBA champ, and a sales monster doesn't sound like a man with a destroyed image to me.