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The Next Step

Dwight Howard discusses what Rockets must do to improve going forward

HOUSTON - “We’ve got to be better.”

That was the simple and succinct message Dwight Howard delivered during the first few seconds of his exit interview with the Houston media Monday afternoon.

Still stinging from the heartbreaking Game 6 loss to Portland, Howard opened up about the improvements he feels his club needs in order to take the next step toward championship contention.

“We are close off the court but we have to be that way when we’re on the floor at all times,” he said. “We’ve got to have each other’s back. I told the guys the whole playoffs we’ve got to be like a band of brothers … everything is about protecting that person that’s standing next to you, and I think that’s a lesson all these guys learned.

“Going back and watching the film and how that Portland team was, it’s something that these guys can learn from. (The Blazers) were together: their bench, their coaching staff, every play they looked like they were all in it. Not saying our guys weren’t in it, it’s just that small things make a big difference in the playoffs and having that support and that team chemistry, and also being seasoned, going through the fire, can help the team.”

Howard posted monster numbers against Portland, averaging 26 points, 13.7 rebounds and 2.8 blocks per game. But that provided precious little consolation for the eight-time All-Star, who has from the first day he arrived in Houston been very clear about the desire that drives him more than any other.

“We can’t take anything for granted,” he said. “Time is very valuable. You have to value your career and I value mine. I want to win.

“I’ve been to the Finals and there’s nothing like playing in June, and I want these guys to experience it because there’s no other feeling like it. That’s my message to these guys: We want to have those ABC games not those NBA-TV and ESPN games. We want to be playing on ABC, we want to be playing after Mother’s Day and all that stuff is a good feeling. I want these guys to experience it and cherish it because you never know what can happen.”