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Dwight Howard says he has been different player since All-Star Break

Mar 10, 2013, 2:30 PM EDT

Dwight Howard AP

Despite all the talk about his rough season — whether you attribute that to his back and shoulder injuries or his mental attitude (or, a combo of the two) — Dwight Howard has put up good numbers: 16.2 points a game on 57.7 percent shooting plus 12.1 rebounds a game.

In his last 10 games those offensive numbers are off slightly (15.7 points on 56.5 percent) but his overall game has looked better as he has decided to own the defensive end of the floor. He is grabbing 21.4 percent of the available rebounds when on the floor and 11.7 percent of the Lakers missed shots. He has been a defensive force in the paint and that has been key to things like the Lakers 25-point comeback against the Hornets.

Howard said he has had a new mental attitude since the All-Star break, something he emphasized speaking to Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com.

“I’m a big thinker,” Howard said during a wide-ranging, candid interview after the Los Angeles Lakers practiced Saturday afternoon. “So I just stayed in the hotel and thought about the first half of the season and how I could do better for our team.

“And I just told myself, ‘I’m going to commit myself to being better for the second half of the season.’ “

The changes included improving his conditioning (partially through a better diet). And he said he needed to get back to being the player he had been in terms of style the past few years and try to take on more of Kobe Bryant’s mental attitude about the game.

But part of it was adjusting to the expectations of being the star center of the Los Angeles Lakers. In Los Angeles, the Lakers are THE sports story — they dominate the newspapers and sports talk radio. The Clippers have been the better team and you’re lucky to hear people discuss them on the radio; they are always the second story in newscasts.

Being a star for the Lakers is like being the quarterback for the Cowboys or the No. 3 hitter for the New York Yankees — there is pressure and scrutiny that is above and beyond other roles in the same sport. Howard thought he had seen pressure as the anchor of the Magic franchise taking them to the finals, but it’s just not the same thing.

Howard wasn’t ready for it, and combine that with him struggling to be himself through injury and you have a pressure Howard admits he wasn’t used to.

“Besides just the expectations,” he said. “In games, I mess up and there’s somebody in the crowd saying something and I’m ready to snap at ‘em. That’s not what we’re supposed to do.

“But you look at a guy like Kobe and he doesn’t care about nothing but going out there and playing hard. That’s a lesson a lot of us have to learn — especially young guys.”

Kobe doesn’t fear the expectations. Look at the numbers and you see he misses a lot of shots at the end of close games — more than he makes — but he is never afraid to take the next one, and that is part of what makes him dangerous in the clutch.

Howard needs that attitude, and we’re starting to see it from him.

The Lakers are winning if not overwhelming — those were impressive late-game wins recently but it was against the Hornets and Raptors — and for them to start to reach their expectations it’s going to take the Howard of old.

  1. decimusprime - Mar 10, 2013 at 2:41 PM

    FINALLY! Lets go Lake Show! Even if this season is a wash, although kobe and I dont think so yet, next year I get the feeling D12 will begin to dominate again. If the “Big Thinker” takes anything from kobe it better be his desire to win and his ability to block out everything, from opponents shots to the blowhards in the crowd.

  2. timb12 - Mar 10, 2013 at 2:50 PM

    Is Dwight Howard still considered a “young guy” ?

    • manchestermiracle - Mar 11, 2013 at 3:24 PM

      What is 27 if it isn’t young?

  3. Mr. Wright 212 - Mar 10, 2013 at 2:52 PM

    Always the subliminal shots following a backhanded “compliment” when talking about the Lakers. Should have known Kurt wrote this.

  4. davidly - Mar 10, 2013 at 3:03 PM

    Look at the numbers and you see he misses a lot of shots at the end of close games — more than he makes — but he is never afraid to take the next one, and that is part of what makes him dangerous in the clutch.

    This is by definition what makes someone dangerous in the clutch to his own team.

    • tsi431 - Mar 11, 2013 at 7:24 AM

      So by definition it could be 49%. Considering most last second shots are 3 pointers, its a damn good percentage.

      • davidly - Mar 11, 2013 at 8:19 AM

        Good point. Still, I’d like to see just what Bryant’s FG percentage is on last possessions for the win. People remember games like a couple nights ago, but forget a whole lot of others.

      • davidly - Mar 11, 2013 at 3:48 PM

        Could be 49 percent (by definition). Or it could be that when Kurt says “he misses a lot of shots at the end of close games” that he means something like the following, (courtesy of manchestermiracle):

        In the final 24 seconds of playoff games, Bryant has racked up almost as many air balls as makes, making just below 30 percent of game-tying or go-ahead shots. He hasn’t hit such a shot in a playoff game, in fact, since 2008, including key misses in the closing moments against the Jazz and Magic in 2009, and the Thunder and Suns last spring. He made one of his four shots in the fourth quarter of Game 7 of last year’s Finals.

        http://espn.go.com/blog/truehoop/post/_/id/24200/the-truth-about-kobe-bryant-in-crunch-time

    • manchestermiracle - Mar 11, 2013 at 3:31 PM

      Go here for a good write-up of Bryant’s last-second shooting compared to other players. Eye opening.

      espn.go.com/blog/truehoop/post/_/id/24200/the-truth-about-kobe-bryant-in-crunch-time

      • davidly - Mar 11, 2013 at 3:45 PM

        It’s as I expected, but I was willing to suspend my disbelief because most of the bricks I saw him throwing at the end of games were when his finger was hurting so much the previous few years.

  5. dls612 - Mar 10, 2013 at 3:04 PM

    Yeah, I noticed he’s less goofy!

  6. jessethegreat - Mar 10, 2013 at 3:49 PM

    Gotta give Dwight credit. He came into the season unprepared… But seems to have turned that corner. Kobe treated him like he does any other team mate that is not meeting his expectations and instead of sulking about it, Dwight is doing a damn fine job of trying to be the player the Lakers need him to be.

    Kobe is the heart and soul of this team, but make no mistakes about it: this team goes as far as Dwight Howard’s effort takes them.

  7. tampajoey - Mar 10, 2013 at 5:09 PM

    The menstrual period runs on a 28 day cycle so let’s give Dwight Howard a few more days to see if he returns to his whiny, crying, b!tchy female ways.

    • manchestermiracle - Mar 10, 2013 at 10:20 PM

      From the rag expert.

  8. lakerluver - Mar 10, 2013 at 6:39 PM

    “Kobe is not a good leader”. “Kobe does not make his teammates better”.
    Just two of the dumbest criticisms that have been attached to Kobe throughout his career. Let’s see, last season he and Bynum came back from all-star weekend with a bond that translated to their play together on the court. This season he and Dwight came back from all-star weekend with a bond that has translated to how the LAKERS are playing on the court and a new attitude for Dwight. Just a coincidence, right? Leaders lead in different ways. How could someone with the drive, work ethic and desire to win like Kobe NOT be a great leader?? Kobe has been a great leader for awhile now.

  9. fruitcovejag - Mar 10, 2013 at 6:39 PM

    “Big thinker”??? LOL

  10. lakerluver - Mar 10, 2013 at 6:50 PM

    @fruitcovejag
    I’m sure you belong to the MENSA Society yourself, sir.

  11. cranespy - Mar 10, 2013 at 8:00 PM

    Have you noticed he has played better ever since NOT the All Star break but rather the NEXT game after the trade deadline when Mitch announced to the world that Dwight was going to be the Lakers horse for years to come! That public pronouncement changed everything!

  12. kb2408 - Mar 10, 2013 at 8:29 PM

    @cranespy
    evidently you haven’t read the entire interview. Dwight made it clear that he and Kobe had discussions at the all-star weekend and that’s when he decided to make a change for the better. Of course, hearing the endorsement from Mitch also helped.

  13. december77 - Mar 10, 2013 at 9:39 PM

    …still dumb as dirt

  14. albertmn - Mar 11, 2013 at 10:42 AM

    16 and 12 are not “good” for a max contract player, in my book.

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