On the day of Dwight Howard’s introductory press conference, the big man could not wipe the smile off his face. He declared that day, August 11th, 2012, as “Lakers Day” and said that he was “so happy right now it’s hard to think.”
Then, eight months later, after an entire team was beat down and wounded, the Lakers were swept out of the playoffs by the San Antonio Spurs. It was the first time since 1978 that the Lakers’ postseason didn’t extend till the month of May. The “super team” collapsed, and the Lakers were having exit interviews in April rather than playing for a championship in June.
Back on that day, which Dwight Howard declared as “Lakers Day”, Howard felt nothing but love from the fans.
“Seeing all the love from the fans here has been great.” – Dwight Howard on August 11th, 2012.
But, that was during the honeymoon stage of Dwight’s signing, and after a season of criticism, Howard didn’t exactly feel the same way after his first year with the organization. When LakersNation.com asked Dwight if he felt like he’d been welcomed with open arms by the city of Los Angeles, he seemed unsure.
“Some days it’s good when I have a good game. Some days it’s not so good. But like Mitch (Kupchak) says…it’s the best place to be when you’re winning, when your losing it’s not so good, but LA…They love their Lakers.”
To be fair, Dwight endured a fair amount of criticism throughout his first season with the purple and gold, especially after being unable to control his emotions and getting himself ejected in the final game of the season. The criticism came from fans, NBA greats, analysts and the like, and at times it seemed like it was too much for Dwight Howard to handle. But, just as Kupchak reiterated to Dwight, winning changes everything.
When LakersNation.com asked Dwight how his feelings toward his future with the Lakers organization would have changed, if the Lakers had met expectations this year, Dwight realized how different things would be.
“If we had won, I think it would be a different scene here in L.A….But, everything happens for a reason and I don’t know why it had to happen this year, it had to happen on this team, but everything happens for a reason and we may never know why right now (why) it happens, but it’s going to all make us better.”
If the Lakers had made it to the NBA Finals this year, Dwight’s future probably would not be a summer-long topic of conversation. Howard’s performance probably would not have been the main subject of critics and a source of blame for fans. The media would not have been as negative, and Dwight would have felt like he belonged in this city. Unfortunately for Dwight, he’s had a difficult time dealing with L.A. media and hasn’t yet figured out how to brush off the criticisms.
“It’s tough…cause I’m a happy-go-lucky person and I love to see people smile and you want people to like you…”
But, what Dwight needs to realize is that not everyone is going to like you in Los Angeles, especially not all the time. And, who better to learn that from than Kobe Bryant. That’s right, Kobe wasn’t always loved and adored by the Lakers fanbase. People seem to forget, Dwight included, that Kobe had his time in the negative spotlight. Think 2004-2005 season. After Shaq was traded, Kobe was criticized around the clock. Even more recently, remember the drama behind Kobe’s trade declaration in 2007 that had fans in an uproar? And those aren’t the only ties…
Kobe, though, is a different breed, and he’s learned how to accept and embrace the criticisms and the media, just as Dwight needs to do if he’s going to be the next franchise face of the Lakers. He needs to grow a thicker skin, and Kobe has told Dwight many times not to let what people say affect him. Fittingly, Kobe had these words of advice for Dwight Howard to end his exit interview.
“Be yourself…Allow people to judge you for who you are….if you think I’m an [expletive] at least let me be an [expletive] and then you can judge for yourself and on that note have a good summer!”
Even with all the criticism and Dwight’s future still a mystery, Kobe said he thinks Los Angeles is the perfect place for Dwight. So much so, that Kobe said he would talk to Dwight about staying with the franchise. Appropriately, the day Howard proclaimed it to be Laker Day back in August, Dwight revealed that Kobe was the first he talked to. Hopefully, Kobe will also be the last.
VIDEO: Kobe’s Words Of Advice For Dwight Howard
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