Inspired Howard targets bounce-back year with Rockets
MANILA, Philippines -- NBA All-Star Dwight Howard, after experiencing a "period of bad weather" last season with the Los Angeles Lakers, is looking forward to seeing the "rainbow" and starting the new phase of his career with the Houston Rockets.
Howard and the Rockets are in town to play the Indiana Pacers in the NBA Global Games on Thursday, the first-ever pre-season game to be held in the Philippines. It is Howard's second time to visit the country, having been to Manila back in his rookie year.
"I was only 18 or 19," Howard reminisced.
Since then, he has won three Defensive Player of the Year trophies, became a seven-time All-Star, was named to seven All-NBA teams, and was considered the best center in the NBA.
But the past two years were difficult for Howard, as he battled a back injury and his level of play declined. After a disappointing season with the Lakers, he signed with the Rockets in the off-season, joining his third team in three years.
"You know, I've had a pretty good career," Howard said. "Last season, I was coming off a major surgery, and I don't think a lot of people understood the severity of a back injury. They just pay attention to the negative."
"I'm aware of that, and how hard basketball is especially for guys at the top of their game. They sometimes go through different moments. There was a phase where LeBron (James) was seen as the bad guy," he added. "This is how they portray a lot of different situations, and the only thing you can do to cure stuff like that is to win."
"I always tell myself, there's a rainbow after every storm. I had that period of bad weather, and I'm looking forward to the rainbow."
And Howard is looking forward to winning with the Rockets, where he will team up with All-Star James Harden to form one of the most exciting one-two punches in the NBA.
"I think we have a good opportunity to win and we have a great team," Howard said. "Everybody on our roster is looking forward to having a great season."
From a personal standpoint, Howard is aiming to take on a leadership role with the Rockets, and regain the form that made him the most dominant inside force in the league.
"I want to lead these guys. That's why I'm here," he said. "It's not about me scoring 50 points a night. It's just about showing these guys who I am as a player and a person."
"You know, I had a great summer," he added. "Getting into the season, I'm just really looking forward to having a great year. Everything is not gonna be perfect right now, but we have to weather the storm. We gotta learn how to play together, and we'll be fine."
Thanks in part to his decision to sign with the Rockets, Houston is now being looked upon as one of the contenders in the Western Conference, and Howard agrees.
"I think we're gonna have an unbelievable year. Personally, for myself, I want to have a great year," Howard said. "Like I said, I had a great summer, and I'm a lot healthier than I was."
"With the injury that I had, it takes some time to really heal from it, not just physically but mentally. Just because I have big muscles and stuff like that, people thought that it's nothing major, but it was a very tough process that I had to go through," he admitted. "And I am happy to be out of it."