The time has finally come for Dwight Howard to play his former team, Los Angeles Lakers, at Staples Center on Wednesday and he appears to be prepared for it.
“I think there will be a lot of boos,” Howard said. “I can’t really focus too much on that. I know I’m going to hear it the whole game. All the noises, whatever you want to call it, ‘Coward.’ There’s not anything I can do about it except to go out and play.
Howard spurned the Lakers last offseason when he elected to sign a four-year, $88 million deal with the Rockets rather than a five-year, $118 contract with Los Angeles.
In his lone season with the Lakers, it was one full of consistent issues on the floor and within the locker room. Howard complained on several different occasions throughout the year that he was not getting enough touches on offense.
He was also not seeing eye-to-eye with Kobe Bryant, which created a whole other issue to go along a players-only meeting after Los Angeles fell to a season-worst eight games under .500 (17-25) on Jan. 24 in a loss to the Memphis Grizzles.
On top of that, Howard was recovering from his back surgery and a torn labrum in his shoulder, which is something he still feels bad about not being able to give the Lakers fans and the team what they expected coming into the season.
“When you’re not healthy and you’re trying to play through injuries and stuff like that, it’s not fun,” Howard said. “You’re hurt and there’s things you want to do but you can’t. I know last year, I can recall a lot of times I’d go up for dunks and I didn’t have it. And I’m like man, this isn’t fun.
“I tried to do whatever I could to help the team win, but I was really hurting myself as far as my back and stuff like that.”
But since signing with the Rockets last offseason, Howard appears to be happy with his decision and has no regrets about leaving Los Angeles.
“Back in Orlando, I was there for my whole career and fans had gotten to know me on a personal level. I know that a lot of people were very hurt,” Howard said. “With this situation, it being my first year, and I left after that. People were mad that I left the Lakers and nobody’s ever left the Lakers, so they were upset about that.
“But at the end of the day, I did what I felt was best for myself. I wasn’t afraid of any bright lights or pressure. I just felt like Houston was the best place for me. Other people might see it differently, but that’s what I chose. It’s my destiny, it’s my life and I feel like I did the right thing.”
However, Howard did express that things could have gone a bit different in his time with the Lakers that could of convinced him to stay, but for the 28-year-old those are things of the past.
“There’s a couple things that could’ve been done, but that’s over with now,” Howard said with a coy smile Tuesday afternoon. “I’m in a better place, our team is doing great and the Lakers, they’ll come back. But hopefully this is the Rockets’ time.”
As for the Lakers, in a the midst of a difficult season where they have lost 22 out of their last 27 games, a win over the Rockets on Wednesday could provide a much-needed boost to start the second half of the season.
Photo Credit: Scott Halleran/Getty Images
Bob Garcia IV
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