During his first season in Los Angeles, Dwight Howard appeared in 76 games – missing six due to a torn labrum – towards averages of 17.1 points, 12.4 rebounds (led the NBA) and 2.4 blocks on 57.8 percent field goals (second in the NBA) and 49.2 percent free throws. It took Howard essentially the entire season to rebuild his strength and mobility from season-ending back surgery last April.
In four postseason games against San Antonio, Howard averaged 17.0 points, 10.8 rebounds and 2.0 blocks on 61.9 percent field goals and 44 percent from the foul line.
Below is a summary of his exit interview:
- Of course, the media was curious to know what Howard is thinking in terms of what he’ll do as an unrestricted free agent. His initial response is that he still needs time to “clear his head,” think about everything. Several of his teammates, including Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash, expressed optimism that he’d return to Los Angeles, but we’ll of course have to wait and see.
- Howard reiterated that this season was in many ways a “nightmare” from which the team couldn’t wake up. Clearly, it was hard on everybody. “I’m not happy that we’re sitting at home, that we got swept … but things like this happen in life. You have bad moments, bad years, but we survived. I think the future will be better for me as an individual.”
- Howard thinks it’s “great” to have the support from his current teammates and the organization throughout a struggle of a season. “To see Kobe and Steve and how supportive they are is great. Steve was the first one to talk to me before the game was over, and he said, ‘You have a tough decision to make, but I’m here for you.’”
- On the injuries he dealt with this season: “My back was pretty much painful the whole year. I came back five or six months earlier than I was supposed to, for this team, for this city because I wanted to win so bad. My shoulder, I’m going to have that looked at tomorrow. Hopefully I won’t have to have surgery. Whatever the case may be, I’m going to do whatever it takes myself to get right. I didn’t have the opportunity to get in the gym last offseason, but that’s something I’m looking forward to.”
- On not becoming the defensive team they wanted to: “That takes time. It’s tough.” He cited the injuries that kept the team essentially from practicing especially late in the season, and just prevented any kind of real progress.”
- On Los Angeles: “I love it. I had an awesome first year (living in Los Angeles), and we’ll see.”
- Howard was repeatedly asked about his plan for next season, and he repeatedly stated that he couldn’t really get into it. “I just want to be happy.” He didn’t tip his hand, and said he didn’t want pressure from anybody. (Lakers GM) “Mitch (Kupchak) said he wasn’t going to pressure me, and we’re in a good place.”
- On what he wants to add in the offseason: “I’m just going to work on everything … not having an opportunity to work on it last summer. I can really sit down and try to re-define some of the things I can do on the floor, instead of just being one dimensional and sticking myself in the post and play out of there. I want to expand (my game).”