Off the court, Lakers center Dwight Howard is polite, soft-spoken and when he’s not joking around, very thoughtful. He very rarely — if ever — refuses to speak with the media — that makes him an anomaly in the world of professional sports.
Naturally, with his former team — the Orlando Magic — in town to play the Lakers Sunday night at Staples Center, questions were asked about his emotions in going up against the organization he started with — then demanded to be traded from eight years later.
At the time of his trade to the Lakers, Howard had an emotional time re-visiting his “Dwightmare” summer.
“Sometimes you have to leave things behind,” he said at the time. “If you really want to get somewhere, you have to get out of your comfort zone to get it. It was very tough to do, especially at a young age.
“I want to be a champion and I want to be great, so I had to go out and get those things.”
A little over two months later, Howard softened his stance about the way things went down with the Magic.
“There are some things I could have done better; things that could have been done better on both sides,” he told a group of reporters after Saturday afternoon’s practice. “But in the end, we all learn and we have to move forward.
“We’ve both learned valuable lessons, and I try to keep in touch as much as I can with (Magic owner) Rich DeVos and the DeVos family. I talked to Rich after the trade, and we both understand it was a decision that had to be made, and it’s over with now.”
Howard said that just because he’s a Laker now, doesn’t mean he has to have any resentment toward his former team and teammates.
“There’s no need for me not to check up on the DeVos family and the team just because I don’t play there anymore. I called Rich after he had a stroke and I plan to stay in touch with the DeVos family.”
But as a member of the Lakers now, he has one goal only Sunday night — putting another “L” in the Magic won-loss column.
“It’s a little bit different,” Howard said, “but at the end of the day I’ve got to go out there and do my job. There’s no need for me to go out there and be upset with those guys, act like I never knew those guys. I’m just going to play. There’s parts of me that would like to be (angrier), but at the end of the day that’s not going to make me better and it’s not going to make the situation better.
“It would just put a magnifying glass on it, and there’s no need for all that.”
Howard also talked about the frustration that he’s experienced during the Lakers’ slow start to the season, saying he expected all along that it would take time for the team to jell into a contender.
“Sometimes it’s frustrating,” Howard said, “but like I’ve been telling you guys, it’s going to be a process. We want to win a championship and we’re doing all of the things we need to do every day when we come into the gym. Guys are here early; guys stay late, working on their shooting and their game. Those are all very positive signs for a team that’s just come together.”
And while there have been a few setbacks, Howard doesn’t regret his decision to force a trade to Los Angeles.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” he said. “From 1 to 10, I’d give it a good 12. Everybody here is about a championship. That’s what we base everything on. Everybody’s pushing each other and that’s great. We see championships and that’s what we’re after.
“I love it.”
While he wouldn’t answer any questions about re-signing with the Lakers — “We’re not going there,” he repeated a few times, it sounds like he’s happy in purple and gold. That’s just what the Buss family and Mitch Kupchak were counting on as a huge selling point when they do try to get him to stay with the Lakers next summer.
And maybe they should warm up their pens. Seeing the Orlando uniform Sunday night might remind him just how happy he is to be in Los Angeles.