Hornets Officially Welcome Dwight Howard
Matt Rochinski and Sam Perley of hornets.com will be following the Hornets throughout the 2017 NBA offseason and keeping fans up to date through the Buzz Words | Hornets Notebook. Keep checking back to see what the latest is as the season unfolds.
By Sam Perley, hornets.com | Monday, June 26, 3:45 p.m.
One of the biggest offseason acquisitions to ever land with the organization, eight-time NBA All-Star center Dwight Howard walked through the Spectrum Center doors on Monday morning for the first time as a member of the hometown Hornets. Howard, who was obtained by the team in a trade with the Atlanta Hawks late last Tuesday night, was all smiles during his introductory press conference as he opened up about landing in Charlotte.
“I think this team has some great players. I was just looking forward to this opportunity you know [Hornets Head Coach Steve Clifford], we were together in Orlando, we were together in L.A.,” said Howard. “We do have a lot of history and he really understands me, so I’m happy to have a coach like him.”
Clifford coached Howard as an assistant with the Orlando Magic from 2007-12 and again with the Los Angeles Lakers from 2012-13. Howard was named to the All-NBA First Team and All-NBA Defensive Team in each of his five Orlando seasons with Clifford and also won three-consecutive NBA Defensive Player of the Year Awards from 2009-11.
For Howard, reuniting with Clifford is much more than the production and results on the basketball court.
“I just think he understands me. He’s been around me for a long time. He saw back then what type of person I am and what type of player I am, even when we were in L.A. together, he understood the situation and he was always there for me,” said Howard.
The 6’11” center reflected on the unconditional support Clifford provided him during his injury-plagued season with the Lakers.
“Not once did [Cliff] ever turn his back on me; not once did he ever talk bad about me. He was very positive. He was somebody that I trusted in. It’s just crazy. When he got the job in Charlotte [in 2013], I was super excited for him because I saw how hard he worked, and he’s very humble in his approach. He did it the right way. He was blessed for it, so I’m super happy for him and I’m thankful we’re back together.”
Clifford also spoke fondly about his relationship and overall admiration for the new Hornets center.
“Well, what we’ve always been able to do is just communicate honestly and transparently,” said Clifford. “There’s a misconception about why he’s had the career that he’s had. I think everybody views him that he’s been dominant as an athlete, which is part of it if you look at it for most great players. But the thing that sets him apart is his intelligence. He is as bright with coverages, knowing personnel [and] having technique as any player I’ve been around.”
While the addition of Howard to the Hornets roster undoubtedly fills a handful of on-the-court needs, it’s also worth noting the residual impact he can bring to the team as well. Long known for his physicality and ability to take over games, Howard’s infectious, highly-competitive, hate-to-lose attitude should also be a welcomed addition to the Charlotte locker room.
Clifford and his coaching staff have developed a reputation in recent years of bringing in players who perhaps were need of a new environment only to watch them catapult to career years and beyond. The Hornets organization, its fans and the city of Charlotte are surely hoping a similar effect can take place with one of their newest players in Dwight Howard.