This season hasn’t been at all like Dwight Howard expected when he was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers. The Magic were ready to move on, Howard wanted out of Orlando and the center wanted a new coach and a fresh start. He got that in L.A. It seems like he has always gotten his way. But instead of having fun and playing on one of the top teams in the NBA, he has been the target of a lot of criticism. And the Lakers’ championship expectations have simply turned into aspirations of hanging on to the final playoff spot out West.
On top of that, fans have been upset with his poor free throws, his inability to stay healthy and even wearing a headband. It’s been anything but a honeymoon in Hollywood. However, in recent weeks things have started to turn around for Howard. Not only has he worked himself back into shape, but he looks healthier than he did at the beginning of the year. His play has been a big help to the resurgent Lakers. This season might be exactly what Howard needed in order to grow up.
Dwight Howard joined 790 The Ticket with Dan LeBatard, Stugotz and Stan Van Gundy to talk about whether he has had any fun this season, what changed for him midway through the season, what the lowest point of the season was for him, what his relationship is like with Kobe Bryant and whether he has a better appreciation for Stan Van Gundy now that he has a new coach.
Has this season been fun for you?
“Well it hasn’t been a whole lot of fun, but one thing I have been doing is trying to get myself in a place to where whatever happens, win or lose, I’m always going to be who I am. And for a large part of the season, everybody was upset that I smiled, wore headbands and all that kind of stuff. I kind of let it affect who I was as a person. It was hurting myself, it was hurting my game and it was hurting my teammates. I just wanted to get back to who I am and just play ball and be free.”
What has changed for him:
“It’s all about me getting in better shape. I just feel like now I’m in a lot better shape than I was when the season started. I’m doing a lot better and I’m happy about it. I’m happy with the shape I’m in. I’m not in Orlando Magic-shape Dwight Howard but I’m getting there.”
What the lowest point was for him this season:
“Earlier in the season, where I didn’t really have the bounce, I wasn’t in great shape and we were losing games. I could just hear people say, ‘Come on Dwight,’ or, ‘They need to get rid of Dwight,’ and all that stuff. I was like, man, this is really hurting because I came back early from an injury and then I was faced with another injury with my shoulder. It was just like everything was hitting me at once. I was at a point where I couldn’t take it anymore. I went back to the basics. I started playing more, working out more and just prayed that it got better.”
On his relationship with Kobe Bryant:
“We’re not best friends but I would say that we understand where we’re at. We’re pretty much on the same page as far as what it’s going to take for us to get to the next level and for us to win. I have to bring that energy and effort every night and because I’m in better shape, I’m able to do that for longer periods.”
Is it true that you are gassy?
“(Laughing) Stan (Van Gundy) used to get mad because I would have so much gas. It was like I didn’t have gas at home but I always had it when we had practice and especially when he talked. I used to always let it out.”
Do you have more appreciation for Stan now?
“I’ve always appreciated Stan and the one thing that I appreciated about him was that he pushed me to the limits. He let me know if I’m not playing good or doing anything out there, he chewed me out for it because he wanted the best for the team. Sometimes when we’re away from it, we get the chance to see it from the other side. I appreciate everything he did for my game and for our team. I think a lot of guys who played under Stan feel the same way. It’s not a knock to Coach (Mike) D’Antoni and his system. I was just referring to how Stan is and what he did for our games.”
On his chances of being a Laker next season:
“I can’t give you a number. I will just say this, right now I’m here in LA and it’s all about this moment right now. (If) we can control what we do on the court, we will have a good chance to win a championship this year. I think this is a great place for me, but right now my only concern is what we can do this year. Hopefully we can make it in the playoffs and make a lot of noise when we get there.”