Here’s a transcription of interviews from Mike D’Antoni* and Dwight Howard* from Saturday’s Lakers practice. The team faces the Orlando Magic at STAPLES Center Sunday night at 6:30 p.m.
*Click on each name to watch the video.
Q: On Pau Gasol’s decision-making in the offense:
D’Antoni: Last night, he had eight assists, so obviously he’s doing something. I think he’ll get more comfortable at what we do, and not worry about this or that – just be Pau Gasol and play. Like I said, I still think he’ll be a great part of what we’re doing, and he is a great part. I look forward to him getting more better and more comfortable.
Q: On if it’s hard for a guy like Gasol to grasp playing a different role:
D’Antoni: Sometimes. Some guys make it up really quick. You get programmed. Usually it takes a training camp, September and October to do that, but we don’t have that luxury. With someone with his IQ and basketball intelligence, it’s not hard.
Q: On what attributed to the team’s fast start the other night:
D’Antoni: Dwight’s energy. Obviously making shots helps, but I thought Dwight came out and set the tone. Sixteen points in the first quarter, his offensive rebounds, he ran the floor, just being a presence defensively. I thought Kobe moved the ball a lot, and when (Jodie) Meeks and (Antawn) Jamison came off the bench with Duhon – I thought Duhon did a great job of getting guys open shots, and everything they shot, they made. It’s not going to be like that every night. I told the guys, last night it was Meeks and Jamison. Kobe (Bryant) didn’t shoot the ball really well, Metta (World Peace) didn’t shoot the ball really well. So tomorrow night it’s Metta and Kobe. It doesn’t matter as long as we’re playing the right way. Two, three or four guys make shots, then we’re pretty good.
Q: On Kobe’s message to the team after Thursday’s practice:
D’Antoni: He just wants to win. We’re 8-8 and that’s not good enough, that’s not Laker basketball. Everybody expects more and everybody gets frustrated when you score 77 points in a game. Frustration is going to spill over.
Q: On if it makes it easier on his part to have someone like Kobe speak up:
D’Antoni: With this team, you got about five (leaders), so we got a lot of alpha dogs. They all lead in a different way and they express themselves in a different way. One thing I don’t have to worry about is people want to win. That’s not going to be a problem.
Q: On the team’s defense in the win against Denver:
D’Antoni: It was better. The thing that we have to guard against is once you start scoring a lot of points, you kind of: ‘Oh let’s just switch and be lackadaisical on the defensive end,’ cause you think you’re going to go down, you’re up 12, you’ll hit a 3-pointer and everything will be OK. We have to guard against that. That’s the biggest problem we have scoring a lot of points. You get in the habit of letting them score some. We did do a good job of keeping (Kenneth) Faried off the glass. We did a good job of controlling the ball as much as we can. (Ty) Lawson is tough and it’s tough to keep in front of him. What I’m really happy is they only had about six fast break points*. We had more fast break points than they had. They usually score about 80 percent of their offense in the first 10 seconds. I though we did a great job of getting back and not turning the ball over. All our problems on the defensive end have been because our offense has been so bad. We want to be one of the top defensive teams and create good habits and not revert to switching easily and not taking it seriously.
*Denver had 10, and L.A. 20.
Q: On the defensive play of the bench, particularly Jamison and Meeks:
D’Antoni: They’re not great individual defenders, but everybody can be a good team defender. Everybody can hustle, everybody can talk, everybody can contribute something. You might get eat up sometimes individually. But then you have Dwight (Howard) – when he’s on the floor, we should be good defensively even if we have four sisters guarding somebody. That’s where we’re going to hang our hat. We’re going to win big time if we keep that defense on a certain level.
Q: On Dwight Howard handling the whole situation last year with Orlando:
D’Antoni: He’s tough. Those situations are no win for the player and no win for the organization. It happens, it’s part of the business. You just go on, do the best you can do and go on. Those things happen all the time, but he needs to make the choice for himself. He and his family got to do what he thinks best and go for it.
Q: On Chris Duhon:
D’Antoni: He played well last night. I thought he controlled Ty Lawson a lot and did really, really well. He’s done a lot for us and got guys open. There’s more room out there than normal and I thought he was a big part of it.
Q: On the Orlando Magic this year:
D’Antoni: I think they’re above expectations right now and they’re playing well. They’re very organized and they’re a good team. For where they were predicted to be, I think they’re definitely above predictions, which is great.
Q: On the importance of individual development before and after practice:
D’Antoni: Super important. We try to get them habits of how we play, not just guys working out different ways. I’ve seen guys work out that if they took that shot they’re working on, I’ll probably take them out of the game. Here’s what we want, here’s what you work on and see how good you can get. We watch a lot of film. Kids nowadays do a lot of video and they learn from video. We do a lot of individual breakdowns if (Steve) Nash were doing it – if we’re talking about Darius (Morris) for example – and try to get him better visualizing what’s going on in the game. The development of players for any organization is key.
Q: On if his active play inside opened up shots for his teammates on the perimeter:
Dwight: Anytime you play inside out, it makes it tough for teams to help, double team and do all that stuff because they’re worried about the inside presence that they leave the guys on the 3-point line wide open. When we play inside out, we tend to have better nights.
Q: On his feelings toward Orlando:
Dwight: Orlando will always be my home. That’s where I grew up, really. Fans were great to me for eight years. I had some unbelievable memories, but like I told you guys when I got here, this is a new chapter in my life. This is my home now and I’m looking forward to making a lot of great memories here. I’ll always be thankful for Rich DeVos and the DeVos family for taking a chance and drafting me as a high schooler. He didn’t have to do it; they didn’t have to do it. Everybody was expecting them to go with somebody who I guess was proven, but he decided to take a chance, so I’ll forever be grateful for giving me the opportunity. They wanted me to come in and change the city, and we did some great things despite how it may have ended. Our team, the organization – we opened up a lot of doors for fans, businesses around the city and the new arena. We had some unbelievable years. There’s no reason for anybody to hold their heads on what happened in Orlando. At the end of the day, it had to be a business decision and we have to take out the personal side. I’ll always be thankful and grateful for the city and also the owners for taking a chance, and the city embracing me for eight years.
Q: On if the fans’ feelings of him leaving Orlando will go away with time:
Dwight: Hopefully it will. It’s my job to play and let people know that when you get traded or ask for a trade it has nothing to do with the city or nothing to do with the fan base. It’s a business decision. It may affect people because it’s their team they love and they want to see their team do good. But the end of the day, you only get one shot at this, and I have to do what I believe what’s best for me.
Q: On if it still hurts that there’s still some misunderstanding with the situation from last year:
Dwight: It does. But now sitting back and thinking about the whole year, I can understand from a fan’s point of view. They want their team to succeed, they want to be able to boast and brag about their team. When they feel like their team isn’t where they want them to be, they get upset – and that’s understandable. But I did eight years of great things in Orlando off the court. That’s a place I genuinely cared about. Everything I did in the community was for the community. It wasn’t for me to get any glory. That’s just not how I’m built. I knew there was a lot of misunderstandings with a lot of things that happened last year. I had a chance to sit back, think about it and there are some things I could have done better, and there were some things that could have been done better from both sides. At the end of the day, we all learn some lessons and we just got to move forward. I’m happy here, I’m having a lot of fun and this is the place where I always (thought) I could be a part of something special, so I’m going to take advantage of it.
Q: On what he could have done or the organization could have done better:
Dwight: It doesn’t really matter to talk about it now. It’s over and done with. There are a lot of things where we both could have done better, but at the end of the day, it happened just the way it was supposed to happen. There’s a reason behind everything. We might not see it and we might not understand it at the time, but there’s a reason why everything happened the way it happened. But I think it made both parties stronger. We both learned valuable lessons and I try to keep in contact as much as I possibly can with Rich DeVos and the DeVos family. I talked to Rich before it happened, I talked to Rich after it happened and we understand there was a decision that had to be made, and it’s over now.
Q: On how his short time has been here in Los Angeles:
Dwight: Sometimes it’s frustrating. But at the end of the day, like I told you guys, it’s going to be a process. If we want to win a championship, I think we’re doing all the things we need to do every day when we come in the gym to build toward winning a championship. Everybody is here early, we’re lifting weights, everybody is here late, shooting and working on their game. That’s all positive signs for a team that has just come together. We just got to to continue to practice hard, push each other and we’ll be fine. I like the direction we’re headed and we’ve had some tough losses, but we’ll learn and we’ll grow from it.
Q: On rating his time here on a scale of 1-10:
Dwight: I’d give it a 12. I love it. It’s been a lot of fun. Just everything here.