John Wall lured Dwight Howard away from the Warriors with a seven-word Instagram DM

We’re a year removed from John Wall calling his Washington Wizards partnership with Bradley Beal “the best backcourt in the league,” and while Golden State Warriors guards Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson won their third championship in the meantime, Wall finally got one over on the Warriors.

At least, that’s how Wall’s newest teammate Dwight Howard tells it.

Howard told NBC Sports Washington’s Chase Hughes that the Warriors inquired about his services, but an Instagram message from Wall saying, “Do you want to come to D.C.?” and the lure of playing with a point guard of Wall’s caliber was enough to swing his decision from Golden State to Washington.

“Golden State called and I thought about them,” Howard told Hughes. “But once John sent me that message, I was like man. I couldn’t tell him at first, but I was like, ‘Man, I’m going to be a Wizard.’ That was my mindset.”

The Warriors have long-coveted Howard

It didn’t take long for Howard to join the Wizards. The one-year, $5.3 million deal (with a player option next summer) was reported almost in coordination with him finalizing a long-expected buyout with the Brooklyn Nets, who acquired his contract in a cost-cutting trade with the Charlotte Hornets.

The interest from the Warriors, who coveted Howard in a 2012 trade offer and 2013 free agency, seemed obvious enough. They have the championship carrot to hang in front of any ringless veteran free agent’s face and the locker-room culture to absorb a player who has clashed with past teams.

The Warriors instead came to terms on the same contract with All-Star DeMarcus Cousins, just hours after news of Howard’s decision to join the Wizards was made public. You wonder how much one had to do with the other, and it would be fascinating to know if Golden State preferred Howard to Cousins.

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NBA players who changed teams this offseason
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NBA players who changed teams this offseason

DeAndre Jordan

Old team: Los Angeles Clippers

New team: Dallas Mavericks

(Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images)

Austin Rivers

Old team: Los Angeles Clippers

New team: Washington Wizards

(Photo by Josh Lefkowitz/Getty Images)

Marcin Gortat

Old team: Washington Wizards

New team: Los Angeles Clippers

(Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)

LeBron James

Old team: Cleveland Cavaliers

New team: Los Angeles Lakers

(Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images)

Omri Casspi

Old team: Golden State Warriors

New team: Memphis Grizzlies

(Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images)

Trevor Ariza

Old team: Houston Rockets

New team: Phoenix Suns

(Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)

Nik Stauskas

Old team: Brooklyn Nets

New team: Portland Trail Blazers

(Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Lance Stephenson

Old team: Indiana Pacers

New team: Los Angeles Lakers

(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Javale McGee

Old team: Golden State Warriors

New team: Los Angeles Lakers

(Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

Doug McDermott

Old team: Dallas Mavericks

New team: Indiana Pacers

(Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)

Ed Davis

Old team: Portland Trail Blazers

New team: Brooklyn Nets

(Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)

Mario Hezonja

Old team: Orlando Magic

New team: New York Knicks

(Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images)

Rajon Rondo

Old team: New Orleans Pelicans

New team: Los Angeles Lakers

(Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)

Jose Calderon

Old team: Cleveland Cavaliers

New team: Detroit Pistons

(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

DeMarcus Cousins

Old team: New Orleans Pelicans

New team: Golden State Warriors

(Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Julius Randle

Old team: Los Angeles Lakers

New team: New Orleans Pelicans

(Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images)

Jeff Green

Old team: Cleveland Cavaliers

New team: Washington Wizards

Photo by Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Tyreke Evans

Old team: Memphis Grizzlies

New team: Indiana Pacers

Photo by Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Wilson Chandler

Old team: Denver Nuggets

New team: Philadelphia 76ers

(Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)

Dwight Howard

Old team: Charlotte Hornets

New team: Washington Wizards

(Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

Tony Parker

Old team: San Antonio Spurs

New team: Charlotte Hornets

(Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)

Seth Curry

Old team: Dallas Mavericks

New team: Portland Trail Blazers

(Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images)

Jonas Jerebko

Old team: Utah Jazz

New team: Golden State Warriors

(Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr./Getty Images)

Isaiah Thomas

Old team: Los Angeles Lakers

New team: Denver Nuggets

(Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports)

Jeremy Lin

Old team: Brooklyn Nets

New team: Atlanta Hawks

(Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images)

Kyle Anderson

Old team: San Antonio Spurs

New team: Memphis Grizzlies

(Photos by Mark Sobhani/NBAE via Getty Images)

Kenneth Faried

Old team: Denver Nuggets

New team: Brooklyn Nets

(Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)

Garrett Temple

Old team: Sacramento Kings

New team: Memphis Grizzlies

(Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)

Ben McLemore

Old team: Memphis Grizzlies

New team: Sacramento Kings

(Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images)

Demar DeRozan

Old team: Toronto Raptors

New team: San Antonio Spurs

(Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

Jakob Poeltl

Old team: Toronto Raptors

New team: San Antonio Spurs

(Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)

Kawhi Leonard

Old team: San Antonio Spurs

New team: Toronto Raptors

(Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images)

Dennis Schroder

Old team: Atlanta Hawks

New team: Oklahoma City Thunder

(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Mike Muscala

Old team: Atlanta Hawks

New team: Philadelphia 76ers

(Photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images)

Carmelo Anthony

Old team: Oklahoma City Thunder

New team: ???

(Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)

Jared Dudley

Old team: Phoenix Suns

New team: Brooklyn Nets

(Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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Howard is not the game-changing force he was when winning three straight Defensive Player of the Year awards from 2009-11, but at age 32 he is still an athletic presence in the middle. Cousins is a 27-year-old with the talent to be the NBA’s top center, but he has a reputation for lapsing on defense, and there’s no telling how much his Achilles tendon tear will impact his availability and athleticism.

You also wonder if the Wizards preferred Howard to Cousins, who has a close relationship with Wall dating back to their days together at the University of Kentucky. Wall and Cousins have openly discussed teaming up in the NBA, and Wall shook his head upon learning Cousins joined the Warriors. Yet, it was Howard that Wall direct messaged on Instagram. Maybe he was just as surprised as the rest of us that Cousins signed for so little in Golden State. Or maybe he sent the same DM to Cousins. We don’t have all the answers, but the questions create a fascinating what-if for the two All-Star centers.

You would think winning with the Warriors, who have won three of the past four titles and are heavily favored to win a fourth, would be more of an allure than the Wizards, and it is strange that all it took to convince Howard that Washington was the place for him was a seven-word Instagram DM from Wall, but one thing is clear: Where Cousins took the easier path, Howard chose the road less traveled.

As he told Yahoo’s Michael Lee last week:

“I was like, ‘Nah, this is the spot right here.’ On the court, Golden State would’ve looked great. We could’ve won. But the impact of winning in Golden State and D.C. is totally different. I think winning in D.C. would be a lot bigger and it would mean a lot for this city. And to accomplish it with a team that has not done it since 1978? That would be amazing. So if we won, I’d be done graduated, man. … I’d be done graduated.”

The odds certainly aren’t in his favor, but let’s remember these exchanges when we debate whether Cousins winning a ring with Golden State means for his career than Howard finishing his without one.

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Ben Rohrbach is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at rohrbach_ben@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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