Savage: Howard Zeroed In On Winning Title

By Dan Savage
January 20, 2010

LOS ANGELES -- There was no shortage of excitement for Magic center Dwight Howard this All-Star Weekend.

He appeared on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, built playgrounds for kids, hosted some of the hottest parties in Los Angeles and notched five points and seven rebounds while playing against the best basketball players in the world on the game’s biggest stage.

But with all the madness of All-Star Weekend now behind him, Orlando’s stellar big man has already started to refocus on his ultimate goal: winning a championship with the Magic.

“I expect us to have a great second half,” Howard explained. “Everybody stayed home this All-Star break to get some work done and to get ready for the second half of the season. We’re looking forward to having a great second half, making that playoff push and getting to The Finals.”

Orlando’s Superman is well aware of the challenges that the Magic will face during the second half of the season. And he’s cognizant of the fact that some of the players that were on his very own All-Star squad will be the ones attempting to prevent him from returning to The Finals.

Despite the friendly demeanor all the players put on display, there is still a very competitive atmosphere in the All-Star locker room.

“Especially in the East, you have four guys from Boston on one team, you have three guys from Miami, our rivals, they’re in the All-Star Game,” Howard said. “We know we’re going to see these guys in a couple of months.”

During the time he spent with the Magic’s rivals, Howard learned a thing or two. While chatting with Boston’s Big Three, he discovered that each member of the group had to go through a series of heartbreaks before they finally earned a championship title.

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After each going through tumultuous stretches of losing, Boston’s veteran nucleus learned to put aside aiming for individual accolades in favor of racking up rings. It’s Boston’s commitment to winning that makes them the team to beat in Howard’s eyes.

“Boston is one of those teams that you know at the end of the season is always going to be there,” he explained. “No matter what happens throughout the year, in the end, they’re always the team to beat. That’s because they know how to win.”

While the Magic certainly have winning a championship on their mind, this recently assembled group is still in the process of meshing with each other.

Although that raises some red flags for people outside of the Orlando organization, Howard is not the least bit worried.

“I think we’re getting a lot better, but we don’t want to be playing our best brand of basketball until playoff time,” he said. “I think people forget that.”

Prior to the All-Star break, Orlando took several strides towards once again elevating itself to an elite level. With dominate triumphs over both Los Angeles and Washington, the Magic demonstrated that they’re as talented as any squad in the league.

However, Orlando’s franchise cornerstone would still like to see more consistency from his team.

“Mentally, we just have to be more consistent and physically, we have to stay in the battle as a team the whole night,” Howard added. “If we do that for the whole game, we should (always) win.”

With Thursday’s trade deadline rapidly approaching, there’s some outside pressure on the Magic to make yet another move. But Howard doesn’t think that’s the answer to improving Orlando’s odds at securing a championship.

“We have enough talent to win, so I’m not focused on that,” he explained. “We just have to be more consistent on the defensive end.”

After all, the old saying goes “defense wins championships.”

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