Dwight Howard stands 6-foot-11 yet often feels overshadowed in the NBA. The Orlando Magic center is still seeking an NBA title, doesn’t get the publicity of many of his All-Star colleagues and feels his team is often overlooked when the elite teams are mentioned. Through all the slights, Howard is still smiling, which he often gets criticized for, too. But with many seasons still to come, Howard is on a mission to get his just due and a title. Howard recently talked to ThePostGame.com in a wide ranging interview that included everything from the Magic’s big trade, coming up shy in the NBA Finals, fatherhood, Christianity and more. The following is the question-and-answer session.
ThePostGame.com: Were you bothered by all the attention the Miami Heat got before even playing a game?
Howard: “I just thought it was funny. This is a team that had never played one game together and people were predicting them beating the Bulls record and doing all that stuff. Hey, these guys got to play first. But I understand where all the hype came from. They have two of the best players in the world on one team and then you add Chris Bosh, who is Top 10. It’s just what happens. It did piss us off. I just let it slide. I just kept doing what I did this summer. Get in the gym and work on my game and just use all of the stuff that people talk about as motivation.”
ThePostGame.com: How did you feel about getting Gilbert Arenas in a trade after the drama he faced with the Washington Wizards (most notably a 50-game suspension for gun charge)?
Howard: "The organization did what they felt was best for the team. Bringing Gilbert in is somebody who can create his own shot, but also create for others and score. Bringing a guy like him in was big for us. Why bring (his drama) here? It’s a fresh start for him. He’s looking to get going. We welcome him with open arms. We don’t have no ill will toward him or whatever happened when he was in Washington.”
ThePostGame.com: What can the trade for Gilbert Arenas, Hedo Turkoglu, Jason Richardson and Earl Clark do for Orlando?
Howard: "If we come out and play hard every night and get the job done we will have a great chance of winning a championship. That’s our focus. Our job is to get everybody in here to have that same mission. That same goal. To win a championship.”
ThePostGame.com: You’re a big social network guy with Twitter. Where do you draw the line on what to say and not say?
Howard: “You can’t really say too much. It’s tough because say anything they want about you on the Internet or do what they want on your Twitter, but you can’t do that. You just have to be aware that anything you put up is liable to get back to anybody. You just got to be careful.”
ThePostGame.com: Do you think athletes are judged a lot harder than musicians, actors and other entertainers?
Howard: “We do. I don’t think it’s fair. But that’s the way it is. More than anybody, basketball players are seen worldwide. In our sport we don’t have helmets or anything. You can see our emotions. Anything that happens on the court, anybody can see that. You can find it anywhere. The smallest things I have done on the court you can find on YouTube. There’s stuff I wasn’t really proud of doing, people have caught it. You just have to be aware of everything.”
ThePostGame.com: What do you think of your legacy in the NBA right now?
Howard: “For me it’s more about what I’ve done on the court and how I’ve presented myself to people. I’m a people person so I’m always going to have fun at the game and interact with the fans. Just have fun. Let people know it’s not all about basketball. That’s what Magic (Johnson) did. And I think that’s why Magic did. He grabbed people’s attention not by just playing great basketball, but by smiling and having fun. Talking to fans during timeouts. Whatever, just having fun. That’s what you have to do.”
ThePostGame.com: Can you talk about the challenge of getting over the hump for the Magic?
Howard: “It’s the toughest thing to do. Everybody has to sacrifice something whether it’s minutes, shots, whatever. You got to sacrifice. You have to want to win. You have to have the will and determination. You have to stay consistent. The consistent team in the NBA right now is Boston. They’ve been consistent all year starting from (Rajon) Rondo all the way to do the last guy. They play hard. They’ve been doing it all (season). That’s why they’ve been able to get over that hump being in the Finals and in and out of the Eastern Conference. That’s our next step. We got the ability. Everybody has to be on that same page.”
ThePostGame.com: What is fatherhood like?
Howard: “My son is 3. Right now he’s getting to the age where anything he sees he reacts to it and he wants to do it. You have to be aware of everything you say, anything you watch, the people you have around because he watches all that and he learns from that. Just seeing me in him, everybody that I did growing up he’s doing. All the little sneaky stuff. All the little jokes. He’s doing it now. It’s just crazy to see it.”
ThePostGame.com: How would you describe your relationship with Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy?
Howard: “We have like a father-son kind of relationship to where we get on the court sometimes and we go at each other back and forth. And then at the end of the day we know we need each other. We can always come back and talk. We’ve had games where we are upset. I go off on him. He goes off on me. And we don’t talk the rest of the day. Then the next day we’re back being cool. That’s just how it is. He’s great for us. He’s all about winning.”
ThePostGame.com: What are your thoughts about the projected NBA lockout and will you be involved with the players’ association?
Howard: “Personally, I don’t think we need a lockout. This (season) has been one of the most exciting years for basketball in a long time. Everything has been going up. Revenue. Everything. TV time. All that stuff has been going up. Why go away from it? We’ve had our disagreements. But people want to see basketball and they don’t want to be without. Whatever we go to do, we got to do it.”
ThePostGame.com: Do you think it will be worked out swiftly?
Howard: “If it doesn’t, I’m prepared. Our team is prepared for the lockout. You just don’t want to get away from that basketball. The fans would miss out on great, great basketball.”
ThePostGame.com: What did you do to improve your postgame?
Howard: “People just see that I worked out with (Hall of Famer) Hakeem Olajuwon and we worked out for a week. They’re like, ‘Ah, his post game has improved because he worked out with Hakeem.’ If I would have worked out with (Michael) Jordan, it wouldn’t have mattered. It doesn’t matter who you worked out with. It’s what you do. You work out and then you have to have confidence doing it every game. For me, my game
really hasn’t changed. The only thing I’m understanding more is I’m realizing that you don’t just have to dunk everything all the time and always get the basket to dunk and having confidence in being able to shoot the ball. Everything has been almost the same. Hooks either hand. Jump hooks or jump shot. I’m just being patient. For me it was just every day during the summer just spending a lot of time in the gym even with the busy schedule I had in China, India and Africa. Every day making 1,000 shots a day and getting confidence… That has helped me with everything else. I don’t think its so much improvement in the post game, but more confidence in myself.”
ThePostGame.com: When you do your off-the-court stuff, do you think the perception is you’re not focused on basketball?
Howard: “That’s always the case, especially for me. If I’m on Twitter, ‘Why are you not shooting free throws?’ They report, ‘He’s on Twitter all the time. He’s not working on his game. He’s filming movies. He’s in Africa doing all this stuff for other people. What about himself?’ And I’m not here to please them. I get in the gym every day. I work extremely hard. Even during the season after practice I come back at night 7, 8 o’clock and I’m in the gym working on stuff, shooting, post-ups whatever it may be just to be the best. I’m always motivated knowing I want to win a championship. In order to get there I got to do more than what everyone else is doing.”
ThePostGame.com: You have said that at 25 years old your clock is ticking in the NBA. What did you mean by that?
Howard: “I’m just trying to accomplish all that I can while I’m young and do all the things I want to do like run and jump, use my athleticism to score. When I get older some of that stuff is going to be gone. I’m going to have to rely on my skill and knowledge of the game. When I’m young I want to do all that I can do and also add to all the things I’ve learned from the past, players and guys that help me out today.”
ThePostGame.com: What is your fire at to win a championship after losing in the Finals two years ago?
Howard: “It’s strong. I was in the Finals one time. That’s all it takes. And you know what it takes to get there. You don’t want anybody around you to mess up your opportunity to win a championship. I tell these guys every day. You want to win a championship you got to bring it every single day and be consistent. I want an opportunity to play in front of a billion people, win a championship and hold that trophy. If you don’t want that, you don’t need to be here. I want that ring. I’ll do whatever it takes if that’s staying in the gym to 12 o’clock, shooting free throws or doing whatever I need to do.”
ThePostGame.com: When you were entering the NBA you said you wanted to be vocal about Christianity, but you haven’t been that vocal publically? Did you want to be more private and how do you feel now?
Howard: “It’s not hard. I’m a Christian and I’m always going to be one. I represent Christ wherever I go. I think the whole thing about being a Christian, I think people made it seem like I was trying to change the whole NBA by myself. But my job is not to change the NBA. It’s the people that watch the NBA, the fans around, the people that look up to basketball to be role models. We all make mistakes and that’s one thing I try to let kids know, teens know and everyone we come across. Hey, we make mistakes. Learn from the mistake and try to move on. Being a Christian, I know that everything I do is being magnified and put on a whole different level. It hasn’t stopped me one bit for living my life and I’m grateful for where I am as a person. I understand that I represent God. Everything I do is for him. I’m not ashamed for that. I’m a Christian and always a Christian. That’s never going to change. I’m not worried about what everybody says about it. I’m just going to remain the same person I am.”
ThePostGame.com: This is your seventh season in the NBA now. Do you feel like an old guy in the league now despite coming to the NBA from high school?
Howard: “It doesn’t feel like it. Seven years go by quick. I remember when I first started. I was a skinny kid, about 240 and jersey falling off my shoulder.”
ThePostGame.com: What are the things you are most fond about during the NBA career and most disappointed in?
Howard: “Being in the (2009) Finals was the most fun even though we lost. The most disappointing this was last season the way we got put out of the playoffs. It was more disappointing than losing in the Finals because of the way we got put out. The whole experience of playing the Lakers (in the Finals), the whole world watching, the things that happened before the game, all that stuff, it was fun. And just the journey toward the Finals was the best thing in the world. All those hard fought games. Coming back against Boston 3-2. All that stuff was great.”
ThePostGame.com: Can you explain how daunting a challenge it is to get to the NBA Finals?
Howard: “I don’t think people understand how hard it is to get to the Finals. Each round of the playoffs is different. The first round is pretty tough. The second round is OK. The third round is awesome. It’s just tough. And then that last round. All the teams are very talented (at that level). You’re not going to win off talent. It’s about will and determination just to get (to the Finals). Even some of the greatest players have never got there. It takes a long time to get there.”
ThePostGame.com: Before the season there was all this talk about you becoming more serious and not joking any more. But the smiling and laughter is part of your makeup. So what are you now?
Howard: “I’m the same way. People saw that I would smile on the court before the games. But for the seven years I’ve been in the league I’ve been dominant. I try to be dominant every night whether I have a smile on my face or not. People think you have to be super serious to play basketball, and you don’t. You got to have fun (playing). I found myself every game that I’m thinking too much. Or I was trying to be super serious like people want me to be. I ended up having bad games or didn’t play well because I was thinking about what everyone else was thinking. I guess the difference from this season to last season is just my approach every game, every day in practice, every film session and workout session, whatever it may be. But I’m not going to change who I am, not for me and not my teammates because they need that. Everyone doesn’t need to be up tight and thinking about what’s going on. They just need to play.”
ThePostGame.com: How much harder is it for a big man to sell themselves?
Howard: “A lot of people see big guys as big, slow dinosaurs with no charisma, no life, no nothing. That’s not me. When I come out and be who I am they feel like I’m cocky or somebody else. It’s not that. It’s just who I am and I’m going to be let everybody know it. What I try to do is show that it’s more than just basketball. I don’t want to take away what those guys do on the court that score and have the ball in their hands. People see that all the time. They look at the center and they just a strong, powerful guy and that’s it." We don’t want to be known as that. I don’t.”