NBA AM: Former Teammates Respond To Howard
You Can’t Really Be Surprised Right?: I am as big a Dwight Howard apologist as you’ll find. I spent almost a decade covering him and I do consider him a friend. We’re not going to the movies and sharing popcorn or anything, but he is someone I know and have known for a long time. So when word earlier this week that during a sit down interview with KCAL in Los Angeles that Howard took shoots at his former Magic team mates I wasn’t surprised, because between that toothy smile of his, Howard has a long history of doing exactly this – open mouth, insert foot. Rinse and repeat.
If you followed Dwightmare as Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel dubbed it, and by the way anyone who uses it owes B a royalty on the phrase, Howard routinely has one story for the traveling media and an entirely different one for the local media.
It’s not that Howard is two faced, although there is more than enough evidence to support the claim, he just doesn’t always filter very well. He says what he’s thinking and sometimes that doesn’t come off as PR-friendly as others would like.
It was part of his boyish charm when his team loved him, and now it’s part of the toxic label that has many suggesting that the $100 million earmarked for Howard could and maybe should be spent elsewhere in LA.
Howard’s former teammates were tired of the Dwightmare act last year, so you can imagine how much they enjoyed being asked about it again, but that’s what you do in sports media is you get a juicy quote like “My team in Orlando was a team full of people who nobody wanted, and I was the leader, and I led that team with a smile on my face” and you run over to the other guy and say ‘did you hear what he said?’.
Howard’s former teammates heard what he said and had some comment of their own that were not at all surprising either.
“It’s disrespectful more than anything. We helped Dwight become the player he was,” former Magic forward Rashard Lewis to Brian Schimtz of the Orlando Sentinel. “We made a good run. Hell, look at those (conference and division) banners hanging in the stands. They don’t say Dwight Howard on them.”
“Everybody on that team was very close friends. Not only that, but Jameer Nelson, out of all people. I don’t care. I got thick skin. That stuff bounces off me… but him and Jameer are supposed to be best friends.
“Jameer kept his mouth shut for a long time… you hear him (Dwight) say stuff like Chauncey Billups, Chris Paul, this guy, that guy and Jameer Nelson is the one who took us to the Finals, who helped, even though he got injured.”
Nelson for his part tried to take the high road and show some maturity about the situation and responded to the question about the Howard comments with a question of his own.
“At some point, when are you gonna, as a man, when are you going to take ownership and stay out of the media in a professional manner?” Nelson told the Sentinel.
“I would be less of a man to comment on certain things that people comment on about me and my teammates. We had a great run as a group, as core guys, and he was a part of it (reaching the 2009 Finals) and for him to say things about anybody in a negative manner, that’s up to him.
“That’s his opinion. If that’s how he feels, that’s how he feels.”
Former Magic guard JJ Redick was in L.A. with his new Bucks team to face the Clippers last night and found the Howard quote amusing.
“I’m not surprised by it,” Redick told ESPNLosAngeles.com. “I would be more surprised when Dwight starts taking responsibility. That would be the most negative thing I can say, but that’s the truth.
“You can’t take all the credit and not accept any of the blame.”
For his part and in typical Howard form he tried to back track from his comments to KCAL, saying he never meant disrespect to Orlando or his former team mates.
“My statement was just to say that our team that I played with in Orlando, we were the underdogs,” Howard said after the Lakers’ 108-102 win over the New Orleans Hornets on Wednesday night. “Nobody really talked about our team. It was underrated. Everybody overlooked us for the whole time I was there in Orlando and I hated that. We all hated that. We thrived off that. My comments were never to say anything disrespectful to those guys. Those were my teammates for years. They helped me become the player that I am today and we all got to the Finals because of that.
“I would never say anything disrespectful to those guys and I think a lot of people took that and ran with it, twisted it into a negative thing,” explained Howard. “I love those guys. We’ve had some great memories and we thrived off people saying that we weren’t going to make it to the Finals; we weren’t going to be a good team. That’s what pushed us.
“I know that we’re going back to Orlando and they’re trying to stir up as much stuff as they can as I head back there. But, I have nothing but love for that city. I have nothing but love for the fans that were there in Orlando. Nothing but love for all of my teammates that I played with and my whole statement, like I said, was based on everybody saying we were underrated. Nobody talked about us when we went to the Finals. It was all about Cleveland or whoever else, and it kind of pissed us off and we used that as motivation. Like I said, it was not anything to disrespect those guys.”
When you ask yourself what went so wrong in Orlando, this entire exchange explains it. Howard has never understood that his words have consequences and he’s never given enough filtering and consideration to what he’s had to say to protect himself from himself. That was part of his charm as a player, because you never really knew what he was going to say or do and in a world of scripted sports quotes and clichés, Howard ‘s honesty was always refreshing.
Unfortunately for him this has become more common than not, he simply has no idea how to keep his foot out of his mouth. Fortunately for the 17-45 Orlando Magic, next Tuesdays throw away game just became must see TV.
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Stern Not Thrilled With Rodman Playing Diplomat: David Stern and Dennis Rodman have never exactly been on the same page when it comes to how you should carry yourself as a NBA player, so it’s no surprise really that David Stern in an upcoming interview with 60 Minutes, took issue with Rodman meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
“I think it’s ridiculous,” said Stern. “I think that if you’re going to meet someone with the record on human rights, and nuclear testing in a reckless way, counterfeiting U.S. dollars, and exporting a horrible brand of whatever it is that he’s exporting, starving his people, and locking them up, it should be done only in conjunction with the State Department with an agenda. If not, you shouldn’t go.”
Asked if it was possible that Rodman didn’t know he’d meet the Korean dictator and maybe he was uninformed about the state of things in North Korea.
“Then it was the burden of somebody to try to educate Dennis a little bit so he doesn’t come back and say, ‘the dude is really cool. His father was great. His grandfather was great. And really why doesn’t the President just give him a buzz?’”
Rodman made headlines recently when he met with Kim Jong Un recently, and then made the media rounds suggesting that maybe it was time for a phone call.
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Talking Extension?: The Rudy Gay/Memphis Grizzlies conversation isn’t going to go away any time soon, mainly because its good theater.
Gay blames new ownership in Memphis for his exit; the Grizzlies say they needed flexibility to compete. Both sides point at each other, but the truth of the matter is Gay is in exactly the situation he wanted to be in now that he’s in Toronto and the Grizzlies got what they wanted: The chance to have flexibility to compete in a very tough Western Conference. For what it’s worth the Grizzlies are slightly better record wise than they were with Rudy in town, 29-15 (.659) on Jan. 30 when they traded him versus today’s 40-19 (.677).
For the most part Rudy is enjoying his new role as focal point of the team in Toronto and says he needed the challenges that Toronto has presented for him to grow into the player he wants to be.
“I needed a change,” Gay said to Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports. “I needed a new situation. A new task. I needed a new task with something I could grasp, something I could take over. I need to be challenged. I was challenged in Memphis, but it was tug of war at times. Here I’m being challenged and they’re seeing what I’m made of.”
Gay still believes that the Grizzlies ownership group didn’t give the situation enough time and that there is a general lack of trust on their roster because of the newness there.
“With [new management], I don’t think anybody’s comfortable,” Gay said. “They’re rookie owners. They come in there and they want it their own way, and you can’t blame them for that. But it’s a player’s league.”
As they often say in sports, someone’s loss is someone else’s gain, and for the Raptors they couldn’t be happier with what they got in Gay, so much so that Toronto wants to engage in contract extension talks with Rudy this summer on a new long-term deal.
“Last time I left it up to my agent and it worked for me,” Gay said. “I love the city. I think the team has a lot of potential. The organization is great. [Colangelo] is here and he is watching every step trying to make this team better.”
There is some risk for the Raptors, mainly because Gay does hold an early termination option in his deal, which could have him hitting unrestricted free agency in July of 2014. The Raptors would like to head that off this summer when he is eligible to sign a two-year contract extension, although playing out his final year could yield a much longer and bigger payday either from the Raptors or as one of the gems of the 2014 free agent class.
Since arriving in Toronto Gay is shooting .390 from the field and a dreadful .233 from NBA three. He is averaging 19.8 points per game and grabbing 6.5 rebounds. Those averages are in-line with some of his career best seasons.
Gay has been battling back spasms for the last week or so, but over his last five games (one of which he did not play) he is averaging 19 points, 5.8 rebounds and shooting .439 from the field and just .143 from three. In that span Gay scored 24, 21 and 26 respectively.
The Raptors have gone 12-8 since acquiring Gay on Jan. 30.
Gay may not have liked how Memphis went about their business, but there is no doubting that both Rudy and Memphis are in better situations today than they were in January and with Toronto ready to give him even more money this summer, it is hard to point the finger at Memphis too negatively because Gay was never going to get his deal extended in Memphis.
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