Dwight Howard had a chance to become a member of the Charlotte Hornets back in 2004, but the then Charlotte Bobcats held the #2 pick behind the Orlando Magic in the NBA Draft and Howard was the first overall pick.
13 years later, the team that just missed out on one of the best big men of all time get an older, more mature Howard.
"I'm here now," said Howard at Monday's press conference. "I think this is going to be my best time."
Decked out in his Hornets teal suit (which he said he didn't get custom made for this occasion), Howard went thru a 32 minute press conference on Monday with his charming smiling on display and not ducking any of the questions.
He is looking like a man happy for another chance to play for his 5th team in his 14th year in the NBA.
"I want to play until my body says you need to lay it down," said Howard. "I think that I am a lot healthier than I've been in the last 5 years. I'm a lot wiser, stronger mentally and physically and I'm in the right place with a great coach, great GM, and the GOAT (Greatest Of All Time-- referring to Hornets owner Michael Jordan). I think this is the perfect opportunity."
Many would have thought last season would have been the best opportunity for Howard as he signed with the Atlanta Hawks. Howard is from the ATL and signed a 3 year, $70.5 million contract, but the homecoming only lasted for a year. That's water under the bridge now and he is ready to help Charlotte get back to the playoffs.
"You can't reach your destination looking backwards," said Howard. "I'm not looking back, I love Atlanta, but this is the destination and I'm going to make the best of it."
Howard's credentials as a player are impressive. He is an 8 time All Star, has led the league in rebounding 5 times, and is a 3 time NBA Defensive Player of the Year. He has averaged a double double every year in the NBA with career averages of 17 points per game, 12 rebounds per game, and 2 blocks per game. He would have a solid season last year in Atlanta as he averaged 13 points, 12 rebounds, and 1 block per contest.
Dwight will turn 32 next season and many feel his best days are behind him. He begs to differ and his numbers reflect that when it comes to rebounding. In the last 3 years, his numbers have gone up each season after having his 2nd worst season on the glass in 2014-15 with Houston (10.5).
"A lot of people have written me off which is great because it's going to make me work even harder," said Howard. "I got a lot left in the tank and I'm going to give this city everything that I have."
Dwight said multiple times Monday that he wants to finish his career here in Charlotte. Two big reasons that could happen is Hornets head coach Steve Clifford and Hornets owner Michael Jordan.
Coach Clifford was an assistant coach in Orlando and with the Los Angeles Lakers when Howard was with each team.
"He understands me," said Howard. "Even when we were in LA together, he understood the situation and he was always there for me. Not once did he turn his back on me and not once did he talk bad about me. He was positive and he was somebody I trusted in."
Howard's one year with the Lakers back in 2012-13 was one of the toughest of his career thanks in part to a herniated disc in his back and a chemistry that never really clicked on the team. He would play in 76 games that season and averaged 17 points and 12 rebounds before having season ending surgery in April. He would then spend 3 years in Houston before heading to Atlanta last season.
During this offseason, Howard joked that he was going to work on his three point shot.
"I said it and everybody took it at I wanna come back and try to be Reggie Miller. That's not what I intended."
Howard has already had a few conversations with Jordan about confidence when it comes to shooting and that relationship with MJ could be the key to getting the best out of Howard in the final years of his career.
"I understand in order for me to play as long as I wanna play, I have to expand my game and that's not just shooting threes but just playing with confidence," said Howard. "That's one thing I have been talking Mike about is just playing with a lot of confidence and how he was able to overcome the fear of missing. I get into practice and make jump shots but I didn't want to miss in the game."
"But I don't plan on stepping out and shooting a hundred threes this year BUT if I do, I hope you guys cheer for me," said Howard.
Some think the game is passing Howard by with the emergence of big men who step out and shoot the three, but the Hornets don't worry about that as they hope Howard brings rebounding and toughness on the defensive end. Two things Howard can definitely provide.
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