Dwight Howard on Charlotte Hornets: 'I'm going to enjoy this'
NBA.com staff reports
Dwight Howard begins the 14th season in his career tonight in Detroit (7 ET, NBA League Pass) with a new team, the Charlotte Hornets. A failed homecoming season with the Atlanta Hawks in 2016-17 eventually led to him being traded to the Hornets, but Howard is more than optimistic about not only his season, but that of his team.
He was LeBron James before LeBron James. Looking back 14 years later, Howard is grateful for all basketball has provided him and his family. He’s currently playing on a three-year contract worth more than $70 million, and made tens of millions before that.
However, there is a tradeoff to all that wealth and fame, and Howard over the years has come to realize what he, and every other world-known prodigy, missed.
“That’s my chance to be a kid, to have fun and enjoy life, without all the responsibilities that go with being an NBA player,” Howard said of that afternoon at Starmount.
“It’s a weird feeling,” said Howard, who turns 32 in December. “A person like (singer) Justin Bieber or those (child actors) from Disney, they’d understand this: The Kevin Durants, the LeBron Jameses, you miss out on those years when you could just go out into the public and just be a kid. Just have fun without somebody snapping a picture or videotaping whatever you’re doing.
“When we have those opportunities, I think, ‘Ah, I can breathe! I can actually be myself.’ ”
Howard is sometimes viewed as too childish to fully apply himself. If that’s been so, his new teammates and coach Steve Clifford haven’t seen evidence of it this preseason.
“I don’t know what happened to him at other stops, but since he’s been here he’s been aces with us,” said power forward Marvin Williams.
“He likes to have fun, and there’s nothing wrong with having fun. Dwight takes his job just as seriously as the next person. He works out multiple times a day. You would not have produced the career he has produced if you were not a serious player.”
Soon after the trade to the Hornets in June, Howard got a call from team owner Michael Jordan. Hall of Famer Jordan told Howard to relax and be himself as a Hornet, that Jordan had full faith this was a good move for the player and the team.
That endorsement resonated with Howard then, and it’s something he often mentions still. Howard is an eight-time All-Star and a likely Hall of Famer, but he still feels stung by criticism.
“People feel like it’s nothing because I haven’t won a championship, or because I have fun when I play basketball.,” Howard said.
“Obviously with the situations (Lakers, Houston Rockets and Hawks) not turning out so well, a lot of the blame was put on myself. For (Jordan) to just embrace me as though none of that happened meant a lot to me.”
“This is a great life. I’m in a beautiful city, I have a wonderful coach, I have a wonderful owner. I have amazing teammates. I’m going to enjoy this.”