When Dwight Howard joined the Los Angeles Lakers for the second time a few weeks ago, they became his fifth team in five seasons, and the seventh team he’s been a part of since leaving the Lakers the first time. That’s a lot of new beginnings, and a lot of times Howard has had to explain why his latest fresh start will be the one that sticks.
As a result, a tweet cutting together Howard’s seemingly annual preseason apologia went viral, and a narrative was reinforced: Fresh starts are just a thing Howard says, not a thing that he does.
Glad Dwight Howard is getting the fresh start he needs pic.twitter.com/gV32SxIxsM— pickuphoop (@pickuphoop) August 27, 2019
And yes, for those of you playing some sort of weird, press conference-related drinking games at home, Howard did use the phrase “fresh start” during his introductory conference call with reporters. He also gave reason to think that this chance — possibly his last one — might be different, reiterating several times that he knows he’ll have to prove himself on the court, not in the press.
“I’m just looking forward to having a fresh start with the fans and stuff like that, and showing them that my only dedication is to putting another banner up here in Los Angeles,” Howard said.
That may be a tough sell in a fanbase that (at best) views Howard skeptically after how disappointing his first tenure in — and departure from — Los Angeles was, but he also wants fans to know that how things went the first time around was nothing personal.
“I never had any ill will towards any of the fans here in L.A. I loved this city from the first moment I’ve been here,” Howard said. “It was never nothing against anybody here with the team or anything like that. It was a decision I made, but I loved this city. I loved playing in L.A.”
Still, Howard knows all of that is ultimately irrelevant. He seems aware of his reputation, and is seemingly tired of making grand proclamations about his goals only to see them mocked later. This time, he’s keeping his words simple, and letting his actions speak for him.
“My goal is just to win. There’s nothing else that matters. Whatever I have to do to be a great teammate, whatever I have to do on the court, it’s all about winning. The only thing that matters is winning a championship,” Howard said.
But when Howard was asked what he’s learned about himself, or what will allow this fresh start to be different, he paused before ultimately answering that he doesn’t really want to answer.
“I’d rather show you guys then say it. I’d rather my actions be something that you guys can critique instead of just my words. I’ve always said a lot of words, but I’d just rather show you guys,” Howard said.
A few weeks ago, at potentially the lowest point of what is likely still a Hall-of-Fame bound, already-15-year career, Howard had to sell his now-teammates with the Lakers that he really was as committed as he says to winning. He spent the day he worked out for the team at the practice facility, telling the front office and coaching staff that he’s ready to play whatever role they want him to. He accepted a non-guaranteed contract that allows the Lakers to cut him at any point with no consequences beyond less time to find a replacement than they would’ve had if they hadn’t signed Howard.
But after a summer he says was spent reading, meditating and isolating to find himself, Howard was ready for that scrutiny. He says he’s as clear-headed as ever, and has the same goals as those inquisitive teammates prodding him that day in the gym.
“We’re trying to win a championship. And I think everybody wants to know what level of commitment I have and that everybody else on the team has, so I definitely understand it. I’m very committed to helping this team win a championship. It’s not just an interest of mine, it’s something that I’m super committed to,” Howard said.
Again, though, Howard can’t prove that commitment in any press conference, or with promises of another “fresh start.” He’ll have to show it, something he’s eager to do.
“I’d rather let my actions speak louder than any words I can tell y’all. So I’m just going to keep it short and sweet, and let my actions do the talking.”
And with that, Howard had done all the talking he was going to do for the day. He was off, ending his spoken remarks, and ready to let his on-court results speak for themselves.
All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.