Dwight Howard Looks to Avenge Last Season | Magic Basketball

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Sep 23

Dwight Howard Looks to Avenge Last Season

Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images

Via Ken Berger of CBSSports.com:

It all started out innocently enough, with Dwight Howard doing what he does best. Not dunking or blocking shots or searching far and wide for his killer instinct. Instead, Howard was holding court at the NBA Store Wednesday, bringing the house down with his smile and his personality.

But after he was done modeling the NBA’s new, lighter, sweat-proof, revolutionary adidas uniforms — available for only $350 at your local retailer — Howard spoke with the kind of edge and tenacity you long to see him play with on a nightly basis. After he was finished delighting the crowd with Frank Caliendo-like impressions of Stan Van Gundy and Charles Barkley, Howard turned his attention toward the two enormous challenges in his path with training camp about to open: Avenging the [Orlando] Magic‘s embarrassing loss to the Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals, and proving that the Heat didn’t win the NBA title with a few free-agent signings in July. [...]

And so there you have it — but only part of it. Is Howard, trying to shake the label of being the guy who puts the gentle in giant, aggravated by all the attention being showered upon division rival Miami? Damn right he is. Is that all? Nope.

What has stung Howard all summer — from the weight room to the practice court, where he’s been known to shoot 1,000 jumpers a day — is the humiliation he experienced at the hands of the Celtics at the end of May. That, more than anything, had Howard vowing Wednesday that his days of playing Mr. Nice Guy are over. [...]

Listening to Howard Wednesday convinced me that’s about to change. Even if Miami signs free-agent center Erick Dampier, Howard is the one player in the league capable of exploiting the Heat inside and making their flashy free agents wish they’d never united. If he can play every game, every quarter, every minute with the memory of the Boston loss and all this premature celebration in Miami on his mind, no one will be able to stop him.

“They have good players,” Howard said of the Heat. “Every team has good players. I think what that did for a lot of guys on my team is, it kind of motivated our guys: ‘Hey, we’re going to show people what we’re made of.’ And it’s good. It’s good for guys who needed that extra motivation to get them where they want to get to.”

Such as, you know, Howard himself. He didn’t say it, but he understood that he was part of the problem. That’s why this summer, Howard sought out some of the greatest ever to play — Hakeem Olajuwon, Karl Malone, and a mystery mentor he refused to name — to get advice on how to get past this hurdle.

The hurdle of failure.

That’s what Dwight Howard is trying to overcome this season.

After the Orlando Magic lost to the Boston Celtics in the 2010 NBA Eastern Conference Finals and the Miami Heat signed LeBron James and Chris Bosh in free agency, there’s been a lot of chatter about the shift of hierarchy in the East.

The Heat, by virtue of signing James — the best player in the league — and teaming him up with Wade and Bosh, have emerged as the favorites to win the Eastern Conference. And even though not many people expect the Celtics to finish better than No. 3 in the conference, there’s no question that they can’t be counted out in the title mix after their renaissance in the playoffs last year.

Where does that leave the Magic?

Well, it wouldn’t be much of a surprise to see Orlando finish with one of the best records in the NBA and flirt with the top seed in the East. But in the end, it comes down to matchups in the postseason and there is some skepticism as to whether or not the Magic are capable of beating the Heat and the Celtics in a seven game series.

Yet there is one player for Orlando that has the power to dictate the outcome in either scenario.

That man is Howard.

If Howard is able to make a similar leap on offense as he did on defense a few years ago, then the Magic will be in good shape against the other elite teams in the league. It’s very clear that Howard understands that, given that he’s sought out the help of Hakeem Olajuwon in the off-season, and seems motivated to prove some of the critics that are not giving Orlando much of a chance against Miami and Boston. Ultimately, it’s up to Howard to make a difference for the Magic.

8 comments
Eddy Rivera
Eddy Rivera

@Mel

Howard is not going to improve his free-throw shooting. It's just not going to happen. As I said elsewhere on the site, he is what he is and that's a 60 percent free-throw shooter.

@hulKK

Lewis is a low-key person. Rest assured, he's been working hard in the off-season. Not many people know this, but Lewis also worked out with Hakeem Olajuwon in Houston with Howard.

@tha truth is…

Won't happen. Not consistently, at least.

@Tim James

I think Howard feels more embarrassed losing to the Celtics the way it happened because the Magic had home-court advantage, plus fell down 3-0 in the series before they won Games 4 and 5 to make the end result a bit more respectable.

When Orlando made it to the Finals in 2009, they were just happy to be there.

@Mike Camunas

I don't think Howard's edge at center will be enough to surpass the Heat, especially the advantages James, Wade, and even Bosh will have offensively.

@derekk

Because Howard didn't work out with Malone ... he got advice.

@Adolfo

Why do they need to show up to the media and say what they've been doing in the off-season? Other players in the NBA haven't done that.

Adolfo
Adolfo

@hulKK
You're totally right...!!! Where's Rashard and Vince? They were the biggest disappointments during play-offs and they haven't show up...!!! I think this is one major reason why the Magic is not 100% taken into account for a championship, both guys are really good but just when they want to be good, they need more spirit... GO MAGIC!

derekk
derekk

I think that article also said Dwight worked with Karl Malone AND Mystery Hall of Famer Player X. How come the media didn't write anything about Malone with Dwight?!?

Mike Camunas
Mike Camunas

Can't argue with him on the Heat being already written as the 2010-11 champs. Come on. They have to play a game first. Plus, Wade always finds a way to injure something during the season. It'll be great, though, to see those head to head games with the Heat and Magic. Certainly, with Howard, the Magic will still dominate inside over the Heat, or any other team for that matter.

Tim James
Tim James

I would like to see an article on why Howard feels more embarrassed and motivated this season than last season. He made Jameer sit and watch the Lakers' championship ceremony in the Amway Arena, and the players said all the right things during the season and the playoffs.

What has changed, the Celtics series? Was Howard even that embarrassed by that series? I'm not a superstar athlete but I've always been curious about the mental side. Lots of people put in the extra hours to win the championship but it doesn't always make a difference. I'm not saying Howard is all talk. Maybe it is the media who hypes up the narrative about hard work in the offseason to get revenge. But I'd like to know if anything has changed. I guess we'll have to wait and see.

tha truth is...
tha truth is...

if Howard is shooting 1000 jumpers a day...WOW! It'll be hillarious 2 see D-12 on a pick and roll hitting a 15 ft jumper.

hulKK
hulKK

I knew he would want to redeem himself but honestly I'd rather hear about a story/interview with Rashard or Vince saying how much they want to do better this yr. I've heard a lil bit from Vince but where is Rashard? Haven't heard anything about him all summer and that annoys me. For somebody receiving 20million next yr I would hope he would be the 1st and last to leave the gym everyday.

Mel
Mel

This was a great post. We all know his potential, the guy is a monster, and there is no one even close to him as far as defense. We all know also that he needs to improve his offense, he needs to quit crying when he is called for fouls and he needs to shoot FREE THROWSSSS so that we don't have to look forward any more of those hack a howard days.