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[ESPN] Howard finds a new focus

Discussion in 'Houston Rockets: Game Action & Roster Moves' started by Xerobull, May 8, 2015.

  1. Xerobull

    Xerobull Contributing Member

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    Calvin Watkins, ESPN.com


    HOUSTON -- He returns to Los Angeles a different man, with the understanding that some fans will taunt and jeer him for ditching Los Angeles for Houston.

    Dwight Howard says he has a bigger purpose in life now. Yeah, he'll still carry around a bright yellow Adventure Time backpack, mess around that he's Superman and even joke with you that he still watches cartoons.

    Yet, Howard says he is more concerned about society, building his foundation for social change and winning an NBA championship than ever before. This happens when you get older. He says he worries about the world when he sees protests in New York, Ferguson, Missouri, and Baltimore regarding the police-related deaths of African-American men.

    He expresses sadness when tragedy hits close to home, as it did with the jail sentence of a childhood friend for manslaughter.

    When the Houston Rockets visit the Los Angeles Clippers for Games 3 and 4 in their Western Conference semifinal series, Howard will flash his bright smile on occasion. However, he will bring with him the more serious tone of a man who entered the NBA at 19 and now, at 29, has grown-up thoughts and ideas.

    "I would say I've grown with the understanding when I first got in [the league] everything was play, play, play," he said. "All I wanted to do was have fun and people kinda thought I didn't take the game serious because of that.

    "As I got older, I still had that attitude of fun but knowing when to turn it on and off, not for myself, but for my teammates because when I'm engaged and I'm focused, my teams are focused and engaged."

    This season has been difficult for Howard, who missed 41 regular-season games because of various injuries, including 25 for swelling in his right knee from late January to late March. The Rockets went 8-3 after his return on March 25, providing a boost for the team, which earned the Western Conference's No. 2 seed. In the postseason, the Rockets have seen Howard dominate as he leads in rebounds (13.6 per game) and blocked shots (3.43) in the postseason.

    "He's been a beast," said James Harden, who was outstanding for the Rockets this season, finishing second in MVP voting.

    "I'm definitely proud of him," teammate and close friend Josh Smith said. "He's been fighting through a lot of trials and tribulations and to get to this point, back to playing as dominant as I know he's capable of playing.

    "It's good to see and being a part of it."

    This has been a change from where Howard was. He saw the world crumbling around him and he wanted to save it.

    In his final season with the Orlando Magic he started the D12 Foundation to do charity work for the underprivileged. Howard admits it lacked focus and he didn't know what he wanted to do with it. But Howard read about the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown, two unarmed African-American men who were killed by police officers. There were protests in Ferguson, Mo. and New York.

    He talked with several church leaders and close friends to express his disappointment in what was happening across the country. He wanted to do something positive, so he re-energized and started a campaign called "Breathe Again," where he would speak to kids regardless of race about moving in positive directions.

    "It really disappointed me to see our nation as a whole just to have this hatred toward each other," Howard said.

    "I'm a positive people person who loves. It was very hard to see those things that were going on in our society."

    That's why it pained Howard when high school teammate Javaris Crittenton pleaded guilty to manslaughter, admitting in an Atlanta courtroom on April 29 that he was a gang member and to his role in the 2011 shooting death of Julian Jones, a mother of four. He was sentenced to 23 years in prison. Howard was close to Crittenton and the impact of Crittenton's sentencing affected Howard.

    "You have all these different situations and the situation with Javaris really hurt me personally," Howard said. "We grew up together, played on the same AAU team, went to the same school and to see just life being taken away in general, I felt for the families' lives in that situation.

    "And then [Crittenton's] mom, his sister and all the lives that will be affected because of him going to jail, it just hurts. It's just like now I want to do whatever I can so the younger generation doesn't have to go through that."

    So if you see Howard smile on the court against the Clippers, be mindful he's having fun, but he also wants to win and has serious things on his mind.


    Howard's suits stood out when he missed 25 games from January to March. Andrew Bernstein/Getty Images
    In nearly every statement he makes, Howard talks about getting back to the NBA Finals. He joked with reporters they forgot he reached the NBA Finals with the Magic in 2009.

    Howard's quest to return to the NBA Finals is strong. He still works out with Hall of Fame center Hakeem Olajuwon. They talk about spacing, how to use your legs, fighting through screens, rebounding and more.

    "There is no question about his work ethic," Olajuwon said. "He works harder than anybody I know. He works hard [and] he wants to win, but because, I guess he likes to have fun, smile, people think he's not serious."

    Fans can boo or jeer or not take him seriously. But that doesn't matter to Howard, because in his mind, that won't stop him from his bigger goal. The kid is still in there, but the kid wants more.

    "Change the lives toward positivity," Howard said. "Even in my life I saw how fans, even how little kids, who don't know anything about basketball or anything like that, hate me for no reason.

    "I would see kids at games saying whatever an adult next to them said. It hurt my heart to see so much negative coming from people. We hate for no reason."
     
    1 person likes this.
  2. Freik

    Freik Contributing Member

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    Good Read.

    D12 has always produced in the playoffs, this is what i was expecting out of him. Hopefully he can carry us to the WCF. This might be Harden's team during the regular season, but D12 is reminding everyone he can be a go to guy.
     
  3. pippendagimp

    pippendagimp Member

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    going back to LA gives me a bit of hope that both harden and howard might have monster games tonight
     
  4. HouStu_Rocket

    HouStu_Rocket Member

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    I love Dwight Howard. He's doing what it takes to win and truly playing like the best center in the league.
     
  5. LCAhmed

    LCAhmed Contributing Member

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    Howard has been big for us in the Playoffs, glad he's playing to his potential! Hoping this LA trip awakens a beast! LET'S GO!
     
  6. YOLO

    YOLO Member

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    very telling that howard has been the most dominant player on houstons team in the playoffs without the offense really revolving around him
     
  7. Rockston

    Rockston Member

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    We all judge others lives with an unspoken ease but the truth is we are no one to point our fingers and ridicule a man who is as charitable and financially successful as Dwight. His positivity and always jovial personality could be a 'front' like some LA fans I know think but his 'front' is a lot more pleasant than most peoples and spreading the positivity is one of the best virtues to have in life.


    Oh, and he is pretty good at basketball, too. Keep it up big man, Houston supports you!
     
  8. MuddyWaters

    MuddyWaters Member

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    i want to see a game where both H's go for 30+
     
  9. Richie_Rich

    Richie_Rich Member

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    Great read, thanks OP.

    Dwight has really grown on me since his arrival from LA. Like most fans, I bought the media narrative that he was just a big goofball, too childish to be dominant again after injuries. I'm so glad I was proven wrong. This man has been the best player and leader of this team for TWO consecutive postseasons.

    Good on you, Dwight. Keep doing what you're doing in the community.

    You make Houston proud, sir.
     
    1 person likes this.
  10. hajkov

    hajkov Consummate Member

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    Gotta love Dwight

    1st) Recognize Harden as team leader and franchise player
    2nd) When the leader is struggling, comes up BIG and make his statement in the paint
    3rd) Is not a jerk about it, and still motivates Harden to grab his s**t together :)

    Now that´s the true "HERO Ball", NBA.
     
  11. SwoLy-D

    SwoLy-D Contributing Member

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    ^ But... but... but... Kobe called him "soft"... :( does that not count anymore?!?!? I mean, Kobe has so many championships and MVPs and stuff... you know? :p
     
  12. cheke64

    cheke64 Member

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    He's new focus is Heyp's niece.
     
  13. pwnyxpress

    pwnyxpress Contributing Member

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    I've always been a fan of Dwight and loved him coming to Houston. Glad it's worked out so well. I was a huge fan of JSmoove too and wanted him on our team when Dwight came (that offseason).

    Proud of the things he wants to do and is doing off the court as well. There is indeed a lot of negativity in today's society...
     
  14. B-Bob

    B-Bob my celli weighs a ton

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    Wow, Watkins must be looking for a one-way ticket out of ESPN. Maybe he's going with the sports guy.:grin:

    Seriously, nice article. Still can't believe BSPN posted anything positive about one of our players, especially Dwert.
     
  15. linkz1993

    linkz1993 Member

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    I want him to win so bad it kills me inside.. I really dont want him to turn out to be just like another Ewing
     
  16. Juxtaposed Jolt

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    I wonder how many Lakers "fans" are going to buy a ticket just to chant "Howard sucks" all game.
     
  17. RedEyesKirby

    RedEyesKirby Member

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    I guess Pop was right afterall. He said coming into the NBA, you have to other priorities more important/just as important as basketball to play well. I think Dwight's going to have a turning point in his career with this change.
     

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