Last year, the Washington Wizards underperformed both out of sheer ingrained habit and because some of the most important people on the team just absolutely fucking hated some of the other most important people on the team. On Monday, the team introduced Dwight Howard, the veteran big man that the team signed to replace the departed Marcin Gortat and help solve that particular chemistry problem.
If you have followed NBA basketball at all over the last decade and change, or even if you spend a minute studying Washington coach Scott Brooks’s heartbreakingly wan smile in the photo above, you may have some doubts about that last part. Howard is not the player he was a decade ago, although he was a very productive if inescapably retro contributor to the Hornets last year. But one area where he has not lost a step is in annoying the dickens out of everyone he works with simply by being himself. It’s not unusual for a veteran player to spend the last years of his NBA hitch changing teams frequently, but Dwight’s unbearable Dwightness—a soul-deep corniness and earnest obnoxiousness unparalleled by any athlete in any sport, reflective of his true belief in the Skittle-driven life—has both kept him moving and insured that his former teams are mostly glad to see him go. In recent years, the Dwight Howard Experience has been defined by earnest but doomed pretensions to leadership giving way to his inevitable hapless reversion to type.
The Wizards surely know about this. If they somehow didn’t know it before they introduced Howard to the media on Monday, they surely knew it after he trotted out this extremely unscripted-seeming explanation of how he finally made it to the Wizards.
“I learned Magic for eight years. I traveled to La-La Land. I learned how to work with Rockets. Then I went and learned how to fly with some Hawks. Got stung by the Hornets. But through all of that, it’s taught me how to be a Wizard.”
Awful! Here’s what it looks like.
Once again, Brooks’s stricken facial expressions—they play out like watching the Alonzo Mourning Acceptance GIF run backwards—tell a very different story than Howard himself. But while we can probably assume that Howard is in earnest, if only because this deeply authentic inauthenticity is kind of his defining personality trait, Brooks’s parade of mirthless chuckles and hoo-boy face-acting may well reflect more than the difficulty of sitting next to Dwight Howard when he’s at his Dwightest.
Watch Scott Brooks and you will see a man understanding the work ahead of him. He already had the job of bringing together a locker room that intermittently detests each other, and he will now be adding one of the most roundly detested players in the league to that locker room. He knows that he will get effective defense and rebounding from Howard, and also some splitting headaches. But it’s at the 49-second mark of the video above when you can see Brooks truly realize that he’ll spend the next year of his life trying to keep his players from committing felony assault against this hulking goofsteak. Here it is.
Good luck, everyone!