That’s not going to win him any more fans in the already-jaded Los Angeles fan-base as he has become among the most criticized athletes in recent memory. Howard told ESPN Los Angeles on Thursday following team practice that he would embrace the opportunity to play in Brazil and even went as far as saying he was upset about being absent from the London Games:
“I was pissed off,” Howard said. “I was mad I couldn’t play in the playoffs. I was mad I couldn’t play in the Olympics. I was pissed. I was looking forward to going to London. I was looking forward to making a big run in the playoffs last season, so I wasn’t too happy about the fact that I had to have surgery and miss a lot of basketball.”
Injuries are upsetting for any athlete, but what’s more upsetting for a fan base of a team that expects to win every year is a superstar who is disengaged and not committed to the task at hand. Kobe Bryant and Howard have clearly been at odds from an approach standpoint, with Bryant maintaining his workmanlike attitude and Howard continuing to be his jovial self as the Lakers struggle through an underachieving season.
To be fair, Howard was asked about the Olympics, didn’t bring it up on his own and maintained that his focus was on the Lakers.
“My only concern right now is winning a championship with the Lakers and how we can get better,” Howard said. “I can’t control what happens in the Olympics.”
It all sounds good, but don’t expect the fans and the local and national media to take his comments in stride. This is Hollywood, after all, and it’s the land of basketball hyperbole. This will be used as more fuel to vilify a player who probably doesn’t deserve the level of criticism he gets on a regular basis.
Howard has teammates on the Lakers in Bryant and Pau Gasol who each found success in London and a coach, Mike D’Antoni, that was on the staff in 2012. As a Gold Medal winner himself from 2008 in Beijing, it’s understandable why representing his country would be so important to him.
But Lakers fans won’t want to hear it.
That’s because in addition to the Lakers having a disastrous season, a very real possibility exists that Howard walks away from the Lakers to join forces with another franchise as the team’s future remains clouded.
L.A. will try to continue its surge toward the playoffs as they take on the Minnesota Timberwolves at 7:30 p.m. PT at Staples Center.
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