A somewhat maligned figure in the basketball community in recent years, Dwight Howard has never stopped being an All-Star-level talent. He has had to learn to let the criticism roll off his broad frame and now has the poise that embodies his veteran credentials. His focus has become tunnel vision dedicated to improving, enjoying life and propelling the Houston Rockets to a potential championship.
Howard took a few minutes to share his thoughts on All-Star Weekend, the dunk contest (and his potential return to the event), his new shoe and a few other topics in an interview with us during All-Star Weekend.
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Dime: Dwight, how does this All-Star Weekend compare to the others for you?
Dwight Howard: This All-Star is kind of laid back for me. Just been here working out, spending time with my family and just kind of taking it easy. When I first got in the league I wanted to be everywhere and do everything. But after being here for eight years the most important thing is making sure I get ready for the second half of the season.
Dime: Which was your favorite, do any of them stand out?
DH: Orlando was a lot of fun. L.A. was great. Dallas was amazing and also Houston both times I had a lot of fun.
Dime: All-Star is known for having a large contingent of media that doesn’t always cover the league regularly and sometimes they can ask some strange questions. What’s the strangest question you’ve been asked?
DH: Well actually nobody has really asked me anything strange. For myself and a couple other players for the past couple years, it’s been about free agency. Where are you going to go? Who are you going to play for? And just for me it’s been about the Lakers, why’d I leave (Orlando) and stuff like that. But I just try to turn everything into a positive. Talk about my teammates here in Houston, my health and what it’s like to be an eight-time All-Star.
Dime: Did you get a chance to check out the dunk contest?
DH: I didn’t get a chance to get to the dunk contest. I saw some highlights. I think John Wall, the one dunk that he did there at the end, was very impressive and then he hit my dance right after so I wish I was there for that part. But the dunk contest is very tough. Every dunk has really been done before and it’s just hard to come up with some new things and new ideas. People want to see a lot of creativity but on that aspect everything has been done that you can possible do. So it’s tough for those guys and they all want to win, nobody wants to go out there and fail. So there is a lot of pressure on those guys.
Dime: What are your thoughts on the new format?
DH: I did like the one-on-one matchup in the second round, I think that was pretty cool. To go one-on-one with somebody like in the gym or in the backyard when I was growing up, I thought that part was really cool.
Dime: So All-Star will be in New York next year. The question is going to come up and I have to ask. Suppose all the superstars like LeBron James and Blake Griffin decide to go ahead and participate in the dunk contest next year, would you at least consider participating potentially? Or are you done no matter what?
DH: It depends on my body. I’m healthier now than I was last season. I’m pretty sure I will be in great shape come next All-star Weekend and if my body’s right you might see me out there. I have some dunks that still nobody has seen yet, so if I am healthy enough to do them I will try.
Dime: So as you mentioned, you are an eight-time All-Star but are you bothered at all by not being voted in as a starter for the game?
DH: I just think the format is a little bit different and that fans don’t really understand. Centers are off the ballot for the last couple years and this year I am battling against Blake Griffin, Kevin Durant, Kevin Love and all the great forwards in the Western Conference. So it’s a little bit different. Kevin Durant has been playing amazing basketball so that’s why he’s had a lot of votes and also Blake. So I’m happy for those guys and I am still happy to be here but I won’t let this situation happen again.
Dime: You are out here representing for adidas and they have given you a signature shoe. How much input did you have in the design of the D Howard 4s?
DH: I had a lot of input. Each shoe that you’ve seen me in, for the most part, I’ve been there from day one designing the shoe. I enjoy it. I talk to the adidas people a lot and I want to put out a comfortable shoe but also a shoe that I can be proud of wearing and a shoe other people can be proud to wear as well.
Dime: As you alluded to earlier you have absorbed a lot of criticism over the last few years. Are you finally at peace now in Houston?
DH: I am at peace. I was at peace when I made the decision to go to Houston. I can’t focus too much about what people say about me, criticizing me for leaving L.A. and all that stuff. My focus is on the Rockets and helping this team get to the top.
Dime: Your numbers have spiked in the final few games coming into the break and the team has been hot. What do you attribute that to?
DH: I just think I’m getting the ball in the right spots in the post. I am taking my time and picking my spots on the post, making my shots and hitting some free throws.
Dime: So are the Rockets ready for a championship, do you feel you guys have enough as is?
DH: We have a great opportunity to win a championship this year with James (Harden) and myself. We want to win and he and I have to play big every night. We are developing that chemistry. We are trusting each other more. I think by the end of the season come playoff time, we’ll be playing great basketball. We are moving on up. We started a little slow but we are getting there.
Is Howard right about the dunk contest?
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