- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 3, 2018

The Washington Wizards will sign Dwight Howard to a one-year, $5.3 million contract once the 32-year-old center and the Brooklyn Nets reach a buyout agreement, according to multiple reports.

On June 20, the Charlotte Hornets traded Howard to the Nets. But the former All-Star had no interest in playing for the Nets, who are rebuilding and coming off a 28-win season. Howard told ESPN he wanted to play where he had an “opportunity to help a team win.”

The Wizards, having traded center Marcin Gortat to the Los Angeles Clippers last week, expressed interest in Howard. The Gortat deal, which netted guard Austin Rivers, left Washington without a starting-caliber big man on the roster, though general manager Ernie Grunfeld said he had confidence reserve Ian Mahinmi could step in.

Howard, the first overall pick in 2004 and a former superstar for the Orlando Magic, is a risky play for the Wizards.

Howard’s reputation has taken a hit over the last five years. Howard was seen as a problem in the locker room, reportedly feuding with former Lakers star Kobe Bryant and Rockets star James Harden. More recently, the Charlotte Observer wrote Howard “plays his way and expects others to adapt to him.”

The Wizards will be Howard’s fifth team in four seasons, including the Nets. He signed a three-year, $70 million deal with the Atlanta Hawks in 2016, but was traded after one season. It is unclear what Howard’s buyout will cost, though he stood to make $23.8 million next season.

“All I need is a real chance and a clean slate where it’s not people talking about my past,” he told ESPN.

For the Wizards, a team that dealt with chemistry problems and inconsistency last season, signing Howard is especially curious.

In February, John Wall blasted Gortat on “SportsCenter” after the Pole tweeted, when the guard was injured, “Unbelieve win tonight! Great ‘team’ win,” which was a perceived dig at the Wizards star.

That being said, Howard was relatively productive last season — averaging 16.6 points and 12.5 rebounds per game.

While he is far from being the MVP candidate he was in Orlando, Howard is still an effective screener in the pick-and-roll — and could be an attractive option to catch lobs from Wall. A three-time Defensive Player of the Year, Howard can also protect the rim.

The Wizards, too, had limited financial flexibility, thanks to max contracts given out to Wall, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter. With Washington set to be a repeat offender of the league’s luxury tax, the most the Wizards could offer a free agent was the mini mid-level exception, worth $5.9 million.

One good year with the Wizards could mean another lucrative offer for Howard from a team next summer, once he hits free agency again.

The deal cannot become official until the Hornets-Nets trade goes through on July 6, the end of the NBA’s annual moratorium, and Howard clears waivers.

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