We went through Dwight Howard’s Friday afternoon press conference to highlight some tidbits that might interest you as the All-Star center held his purple and gold jersey for the first time:
HOWARD PRESS CONFERENCE VIDEO PART 1
- Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak, who alongside VP Jim Buss had quite a summer, had this to say: “We’re hopeful that 10 years from now, we can add a jersey onto that wall over there that says ‘Dwight Howard.’” Kupchak was referring to the retired jerseys on the walls of L.A.’s practice facility, including only those that have entered the Hall of Fame in Lakers colors, and wouldn’t make such a statement about just anybody. But Howard has been the league’s most dominant big man for years, holding down the center spot on the All-NBA First Team since 2007-08, earning three straight Defensive Player of the Year awards (2009-11) and six straight All-Star nods.
- Howard loves L.A. already, having been here for the summer rehabilitating from back surgery: “It’s been home for me,” he said. “It’s been great. It started off walking around Beverly Hills, and every day, I had one lady who’d always come (say) ‘Come to the Lakers!’ And if she’s watching, I’m here. So her wish came true … The city has showed me so much love from day one, it’s been so great to me so far, they welcomed me with open arms.”
- On how he’s feeling after surgery: “My health is great. I’m getting a lot stronger, a lot better every day. I’m looking forward to the doctor saying ‘You’re free to play.’ I can’t wait for that day.”
Later, on when he might return to the court: “There’s no timetable right now. I’m going to continue to rehab and get my back stronger. I haven’t lost any weight, which is good, and I’m looking forward to getting back on the court. If I’m ready for opening night, I’ll be there, but I’m not going to rush it. The back is very serious, so I’m going to take my time and make sure I get back 100 percent, because I want to give everybody 100 percent, not 90, 80 percent. I want to give you guys everything I have.”
- Howard neglected to answer questions about his signing a potential extension after the season, which has been speculated about for months upon months. He’s choosing to focus on the present, quite clearly. However, the Lakers do have confidence that they’ll be able to convince Howard to stay in Los Angeles, as Kupchak implied with his initial comment about Howard’s jersey one day hanging in the rafters. Has a player ever left the Lakers with the chance to sign a maximum contract? As Kupchak says, it’s a desirable place to play basketball even without considering the talent already in place.
- On what he plans to bring: “Everybody is going to expect a lot out of us, and I know for myself, I’m going to give you guys 100 percent. That’s the way I play. I’m going to have fun, I’m going to smile, I’m going to go dunk, block some shots (and) rebound. That’s what I do best. I’m just looking forward to getting back on the court again. I miss it so much.”
HOWARD PRESS CONFERENCE VIDEO PART 2
- Howard described a conversation he had with Kobe during which Bryant essentially congratulated him and said he was excited about pursuing a title together. Howard, as he’s been known to do, offered an impersonation of Bryant in the process (and it wasn’t bad, actually).
- Howard said he wants to be great in his own right, to write his own history, in addition to the “Mount Rushmore” of players he’s joining in Bryant, Nash and Gasol. He said he’s excited for the team aspect, but also wants to showcase his own skills, about which the franchise will be happy. Then, he was deferential once again: “I get an opportunity to learn from the best, Kobe Bryant, I get to learn from a guy like Steve Nash, and I get to learn from the old guy right here (Kupchak).”
- Howard went to some length to explain how his back injury put everything in perspective and has him appreciating what it is to play healthy NBA basketball once again. Lakers fans could interpret that as a new sense of hunger and energy that can be so key when added to a roster … and of course, more so when one happens to be the NBA’s best center. “Anybody who knows me and knows what I’m about – I would never quit anything and I would never fake an injury. I’ve never been a quitter, I’ve always been somebody who pushed through the end. I’ve had injuries before but I’ve never said anything about them. I’ve played through a lot of things.”
– On dominating the paint: “My job right now is to be the best defender I can for this team, I think that’s one of the reasons why the Lakers wanted me here. I’ve always been a guy that likes to dominate both ends of the floor – and that’s not having the ball or anything like that, but just controlling the paint on both ends.” Andrew Bynum dominated the paint at times, but never as consistently as Howard did in Orlando.
PRESS CONFERENCE VIDEO PART 3
- Mitch Kupchak on the trade seemingly looking dead: “While it certainly took a lot longer than most deals take … nothing really ever got to the point where we felt there would be a deal.” Kupchak explained that Magic GM Rob Hennigan seemed to be canvassing the league to see everything that might be out there as opposed to getting serious about a deal with the Lakers, which Kupchak – even while frustrated – admitted was just Hennigan doing his job. But then on Wednesday of last week, Hennigan called making a proposal, and less then 48 hours later the deal was done.
- “It just seems like they’ve always found a way to make good things happen.” – Kupchak was describing the Buss family, which bought the franchise in 1979. Kupchak noted the expresssion that it “starts at the top,” which he said holds true for the Lakers. It’s impossible to argue against the results of the Buss family, of course. Under Dr. Jerry Buss, L.A. has failed to make the playoffs only twice since the 1979-80 championship season, towards 10 championships. Since then, Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Phil Jackson’s Bulls won six titles, and San Antonio four.
- Howard said he touched the trophies in Jeanie Buss’s office, while “making some wishes.”
- Howard, while thanking everybody to conclude the presser, included his “X Box Clan,” while Kupchak appeared bemused.