Dwight Howard was effectively removed from the Los Angeles Lakers rotation during the second-round series against the Houston Rockets, as the team shifted to small ball.
In five games, Howard made just two appearances combining for 15 minutes. Off the court, Howard — on multiple occasions — advocated for shutting down the remainder of the season, as social injustices mounted outside of Orlando.
He has been consistent in his belief that the return of basketball is too great a distraction given all that’s going on in the real world. Despite all of that, Howard remains committed to helping the Lakers win a championship. ”
The biggest thing is just observing everything that’s going on around me, everything that’s going on around the NBA, our team, and around the world,” he said. “I’ll speak about some of the things at a later date.
“Right now the focus is on us winning this championship and what I can do to help the team win. Obviously coming in, I felt like doing anything would be a distraction. But at the present time, I’ll save those comments for a later date.”
Howard also opened up about his struggles in the bubble, especially while on the bench for the Rockets series. “It was extremely hard, but I know that my teammates still needed me, no matter if I played 10 minutes or no minutes. Just bringing energy,” Howard explained.
“I just tried to bottle up all the negative energy and tried to turn it into something positive when I stepped on the court, locker room or out on the bench cheering teammates. It’s very easy to sulk and be upset, try to find ways to blame everybody else, but I just thought of all the positive things and the fact that we’re still winning, we all have our health and we have an opportunity to win the championship.”
Howard saw a dramatic role reversal against the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference Finals. Not only was he receiving regular minutes in the rotation, but Howard started in Games 4 and 5. He played a key role in containing Nikola Jokic and helping the Lakers’ energy and rebounding.
Howard staying positive despite reduced role
Howard, unlike in previous years, has managed to be a great locker room presence. Even when he was benched against the Rockets, he provided constant energy from the sidelines.
“We did what was best for the team. Me and JaVale always stay ready, we train as hard as anybody, and we know when we step on the floor we have one job to do, and that’s to dominate,” Howard said. “That’s what we’re most looking forward to.”
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