Dwight Howard had been the center of plenty of rumors over the past month. Reports of trades and drama with James Harden have been hanging over his head, but after no deal was found at the deadline, Howard is now expected to finish out the rest of the season with Houston and be a key piece to the team's playoff push. Interim head coach JB Bickerstaff says the center is fine with his place on the team.
Bickerstaff told Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle that Howard is focused on making the playoffs and is in a good place with the Rockets. Howard was expected to be traded at the deadline, but the asking price from the Rockets was too high. While free agency is still on the horizon for Howard, Bickerstaff is confident that the center is focused on the season.
"Now, with the conversations we've had, I think he's in a great place," Bickerstaff said. "He's on a mission. I think there's a purpose where he's at; it's going to impactful. He feels kind of slighted. People have kind of forgotten about him and all the things he's done. He's out to prove something. That combined with his spirit being up, I think we'll see a big impact."
One concern for the Rockets is the relationship between Howard and Harden. The two players have not been able to find chemistry on the court for three seasons now, and they reportedly tried to get each other traded at points last season, according to NBA.com's Fran Blinebury. Howard has heard the rumors about him and Harden and admitted that the two had a good talk prior to the All-Star break and are on the same page now.
"People will say what they want to say. There's no need for me and him to worry about that," Howard said, via the Houston Chronicle. "Our job is to grow and get better as a team and get better as individuals. I think me and James had a really good talk before the break. We're more on the same page than we've ever been. I'm always going to have his back; pretty sure he's always going to have my back."
The Rockets need Harden and Howard on the same page. Josh Smith was moved into the starting lineup because of the chemistry he showed with both players, according to the Houston Chronicle. Their relationship on the court will go a long way to dictating the success of the Rockets this season.