Lakers superstar center Dwight Howard sat down on Friday night to discuss a multitude of topics from his nagging injury, Lakers defense, his bout with Knicks center Tyson Chandler and more.
On his injury:
“I’m still in that process,” Howard said in an extensive interview with USA TODAY Sports at the team’s practice facility. “People don’t understand that. They just come out and see me make a couple dunks and blocks and say, ‘Oh, he’s back.’ But it does take a while for all this stuff to heal. This is not something easy, so I understand that. It will come.”
“Tingling in my legs all the way down to my feet,” Howard said as he described his current state. “There’s times when sometimes I really can’t even feel my feet. (The doctors) said that’s going to happen. It takes at least nine months for you to get strength back in your legs and all that stuff. So I’m still in that process. At the beginning of the season, I was getting tired in the first quarter, after a couple of possessions. Sometimes I’m a little winded come second half, where it takes me a little longer to get going. I understand it’s a process. By the end of the year, I should be in great shape. I’ve never taken six months off of anything.
On Tyson Chandler winning Defensive Player of the Year:
“Did you check the stats?” he said to this reporter on Friday as he indicated for the second time that numbers revealed he was in fact the Defensive Player of the Year.
Howard only missed 12 games in the lockout-shortened, 66-game season because of his injury, and his damage done defensively was impressive: 10.8 defensive rebounds per game (led the league), 2.1 blocks (third), and 1.5 steals (led all centers). Chandler, by comparison, was just seventh in defensive rebounds (6.5 per game), 11th in blocks (1.4) and sixth in steals (0.9). But individual defensive legacies are most often born out of collective success, and Howard undoubtedly paid the price for the fact that the Magic fell from third in defensive rating in 2010-11 (99.1) to a mediocre 13th last season (101.7 and, ironically, tied with the Lakers). Chandler, meanwhile, received enormous credit for the defensive strides made in his first season in New York: the Knicks finished fifth in defensive rating (98.4) after they were 21st the season prior (106.9).
The two will meet on Christmas day as the Knicks take on the Lakers at the Staples Center.
On the Lakers bad defense:
“This year, (fans and media) look at our defense and basically (see that) it’s terrible,” Howard said. “I need to step my defense up (but) the teams I’ve been on, they’ve played great team defense. And the reason why is because we were in our spots, we talked, we communicated, we had chemistry. We didn’t start off that way. Our team was just as bad when I first got to Orlando as far as defense. But the more time we spent together, the better we got. And then that’s where I got better as a defensive player.”
On Calling out Kobe:
“I think it is (big), but I’ve never been afraid to speak my mind,” he said. “I’m a person that, for the most part, I keep stuff to myself. I’m not big with confrontation. But I just understand that this team has the capability of being special, to do some special things with what we have. But everybody has to buy into it, and it starts on defense. And we’ll all get there, but there are just certain things that I have to see from this team and from myself.”