Howard says he won't change his play
Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard refuses to change the way he plays or interacts with officials, even as his soaring technical foul total earns him league-mandated suspensions.
Howard has 18 technical fouls this season and he served an automatic one-game suspension in Orlando's loss to Chicago on Sunday. The Magic dropped to 1-3 without Howard
Under NBA rules, a player or coach is automatically suspended without pay one game once he receives his 16th technical foul during a regular season. For every two additional technical fouls during the regular season, the player or coach receives an automatic one-game suspension.
Howard said before Monday's game against the 76ers that he can't let the way referees call a game ''mess up my head.''
''Why switch up who I am?'' he said. ''The technical fouls that I've gotten, I don't think they should have been, not all of them, called for technical fouls. Rolling the ball is normally a delay of game.''
His last technical foul was called on a rare 10-second violation on a free throw attempt.
Howard has always been deliberate at the line, and referee Bennett Salvatore called a violation for taking too long to attempt his second shot late in the second quarter last week at Charlotte.
As the crowd jeered, Howard tossed the ball away from any official. Salvatore immediately gave Howard a technical.
Howard said he wasn't worried about developing a reputation as a player who gets combative with referees. He served a one-game suspension on March 7 after picking up his 16th technical.
''I just have to play. I just can't allow it to affect my game,'' he said. ''Refs are going to call the game however they feel. I just can't allow that to mess up my head.''
Even with the technicals, Howard is having a monster season, averaging 23.1 points and 14.1 rebounds. Howard's reputation could work against him in MVP voting. Chicago guard Derrick Rose is the leading candidate for the award for leading the Bulls to the best record in the Eastern Conference.
Asked to state his case for MVP, Howard said he was ''very valuable to my team.''
''I can understand Derrick Rose's case because they do have the best team,'' Howard said. ''That seems like the favorite all year. I don't know. I just think I've had a pretty good year.''
Howard said he remained annoyed by talk about his contract and the possibility he would leave Orlando when he becomes a free agent. His current contract runs through the 2012-13 season, but he could use an early termination option and become a free agent after next season.
''I want to be there. I want to put Orlando on the map,'' he said. ''I started something in Orlando so I just don't want to leave.''
Magic president Otis Smith said in published reports earlier this year that he planned to offer Howard a contract this summer. Howard said he wants Magic fans to know the only thing he cares about right now is a championships, not a contract.
''I think it's bad because our fans have to read about it, hear rumors and stuff like that,'' he said. ''The one thing we want them to focus is just helping us every night, cheering for us and being supportive. Instead, they're focusing on, 'Am I going to be here?' and things like that. I never said I want to leave Orlando. I think the city fits me and who I am.''