Dwight Howard has had his share of run-ins with the local and national media during his short stint thus far with the Los Angeles Lakers.
His latest comments regarding his former Orlando Magic teammates rubbed a lot of people the wrong way, including the subjects of his commentary themselves. Jameer Nelson, Rashard Lewis and J.J. Redick each had some choice words in response to Howard’s assertion that they were effectively a team of players “nobody wanted.”
I joined ESPN 1420 Honolulu’s “Josh Pacheco Show” on Thursday to discuss the matter, and was asked a terrific question from show host Josh Pacheco regarding Howard and the media:
Should the Lakers’ staff step in and prevent Howard from doing so many of these interviews that seem to get him into hot water on a national stage?
My short answer answer was and is no, but there’s more.
The Lakers don’t have any obligation to filter or protect the big man from himself because he’s not saying or doing anything to hurt the team’s chances of being at their best come game time. His comments are often ill-advised, but they’re almost never coming from a bad place. Howard is not unlike the last controversial center that laced them up in Los Angeles — he’ll say what’s on his mind.
It’s great fodder for interviews, but often gets the player in a situation where he has to retract and clarify statements.
Team spokesman John Black and the rest of the Lakers’ public relations staff are the best in the business at what they do, and they’ve dealt with a lot worse than a fun-loving center who always works hard on the floor, yet tends to put his foot in his mouth from time to time. They’ll mitigate any disasters as needed, but so far the only real concern is the play on the floor, not what’s going on off of it.
“Dwight is learning to be a leader but he’s not yet a vocal leader because he hasn’t been in that situation enough to lead by example,” he said on the program.
The ever-cryptic forward spoke the truth with that statement and was correct in his assessment. Howard isn’t ready to lead from a vocal standpoint yet. He hasn’t dealt with a market quite like Los Angeles in terms of the media, but he’s learning, just like MWP indicated. So the first-class team PR staff is handling their sometimes-maligned big man just fine for the time being. They’re pros just like the guys that don the purple and gold each night, and they’ll be on top of any mishaps they need to control.
Meanwhile, the team can get back to the business of basketball as the latest war of words subsides. The Lakers are 31-31 and eyeing the above-.500 mark for the first time this calendar year. They’ll face the Toronto Raptors on Friday at Staples Center, a team that defeated them, 108-103, on Jan. 20.
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