He once seemed the only responsible, respectable member of that University of Michigan Fab Five team.
Juwan Howard, from Chicago Vocational High School, was unfailingly polite and courteous. He was known around the team's offices for caring about the least important members of the staff, which is the true mark of a person: The way he or she behaves toward someone who cannot do anything for them.Once, when the team returned to Washington after a big snowstorm, all the players fled quickly. But Howard stayed around and used his truck to pull out the vehicles of public relations staffers and locker-room workers.
All that seemed to change about the time Howard signed his $105 million contract. That came after he promised Miami he'd go with the Heat and then he left when he found out the team could only offer him $60 million then and the rest later. He since has been arrested twice.
His attitude toward the media and public was surly this season. He often didn't attend team functions for fans, and he's accompanied by a curious group of hangers-on.
And now, it seems, Howard's college buddy, Chris Webber, has had enough.
In the past, Webber has been adamant that the Wizards keep Howard. But in an interview with The Washington Post, Webber suggested he no longer cares whether the team deals Howard. Howard's attorney, it seems, clearly attempted to distance Howard from Webber in his defense of Howard against sexual-assault charges stemming from a party both attended at Howard's house.
"Let's put it this way," Webber said, "I've learned a lot about friendships, learned a lot about loyalty, learned a lot about what people will do when their back is against the wall. But one thing they can't change is when the true story comes out at the end."
When it does, Webber says he'll be exonerated in both the assault case and on a variety of charges resulting from a traffic stop in Jan-uary.
"I don't want to make the same mistakes anymore and that's why I want to come back," Howard said in asking the Wizards not to trade him.
"I've had some revelations. I used to fight unwinnable battles and I don't plan on doing that anymore. I'm so at peace right now, even with everything going on. One, because I know the truth; two, because I know my mistakes; three, I believe I'm not going to let a lot of those things happen again. My whole attitude has changed.
"I know cynics will say, `Of course it's changed after all this.' But I can't worry about that. I'm looking forward to next year."
Webber said he considered resigning from this summer's World Games team out of embarrassment from all the negative publicity.