The Ballad of Josh Howard


On a wall in the Thomas & Mack Center — around the back where nobody much goes during Summer League — there’s a photo of Josh Howard. He is not, strictly speaking, the focus of the photo, but the player he shares it with — whom he is defending — is almost entirely obscured by an electrical panel of some sort. The photo is part of a large mural commemorating the NBA All-Star Game from 2007, held in the Thomas & Mack Center. It was injuries to Yao Ming and Carlos Boozer that got Howard into the All-Star Game that year.

And over the last two weeks at this year’s Summer League — a place usually reserved for the very young and very talented and the somewhat older and not as talented — the 34-year-old Howard tried to work his way back into the NBA on the New Orleans Pelicans roster, playing in the same gym where he made his lone All-Star appearance.

In the Pelicans’ first game this summer, Howard scored 14 points against the D-League Select team, but it went downhill from there, with Howard not making it off the bench in New Orleans’ final two games. He ended Summer League averaging 17 minutes, 6.7 points and 3.3 rebounds per game. A training camp invite from the Pelicans’ doesn’t seem to be forthcoming.

When Howard was with the Timberwolves briefly in 2012 before tearing his right ACL, he was attempting to work his way back to the NBA after tearing his left ACL in 2010. The second ACL tear came, coincidentally, in New Orleans. This is going to sound trite, but he seemed nice, or at least professional, during the five weeks or so he was with Minnesota. He wore at least two and what seemed like three pairs of socks on the court. In the eleven games he played that year, he had one double-double, a 16 point, 12 rebound game against the Philadelphia 76ers. In a game where Love scored just 6 points, it looked briefly like Howard might be able to provide a bit of a scoring spark to go along with his length and competent defense at the wing position. And then he was gone.

I can’t say why this needs marking down, and I really don’t mean this to be a “Death of a Salesman”-esque, “Attention must be finally paid to such a person” kind of monologue. I myself often completely forget that Howard was even on the Wolves for those eleven games. Whether or not he can ever find a way back to the NBA, he’s still out there, living his life.

There’s no reason to think he went out of his way to find that photo. He might not even know it’s here. I found it accidentally because I was tired of sitting in the same seat for hours on end and needed a walk, but not in Las Vegas’ scorching heat. But I’d like to think that Howard saw it, and maybe it’s even better if was by accident, or by a teammate pointing it out. I hope it made him happy.

Steve McPherson

Steve McPherson is an editor for Hardwood Paroxysm and his writing has appeared at Grantland, Rolling Stone, A Wolf Among Wolves, The Cauldron, TrueHoop, Complex, Narratively, Polygon and elsewhere. His Twitter handle is @steventurous.