Dwight Howard showed up to his introductory press conference in a teal tuxedo—surely because it’s one of the Charlotte Hornets’ colors—and spoke candidly about his career up until now and where he sees himself today.
“This suit was in my closet,” he said when the media asked him if he had the suit made for today.
"THE 12 IS BACK." @dwighthoward pic.twitter.com/peT124oyAm— Charlotte Hornets (@hornets) June 26, 2017
“I’m thrilled to be in Charlotte,” Howard said. “Me and Cliff, we go way back.”
Howard cited the organization’s professionalism, attention to detail, and defensive focus as reasons he’s happy to be here. Hornets head coach Steve Clifford elaborated on that point, saying that many people don’t realize Howard plays a thinking man’s game and instead think he relies on his athleticism.
“Smart always wins in the NBA,” Clifford said of Howard’s basketball intelligence. Clifford detailed the many ways Howard helps his teams and reiterated that many of his critics take what he does for granted.
It’s possible he got a bit carried away, but at one point Howard said he would like to finish his career in Charlotte. He said he’s much wiser now, and realizes that if he wants to play basketball as long as he’d like to, he’s going to have to take things more seriously and expand his game.
“I take this game very seriously,” Howard said. “But I want to have fun doing it.”
Howard also said he’d like to reconnect with Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton and work collaboratively to make a difference in the community. He spent a surprising amount of time talking about community involvement—more than most players would, anyway—which leads me to believe he’s dead serious. I’ve heard he’s quite the activist everywhere he goes, too.
Here are some other highlights from today’s press conference:
Marv and him have a bit of a history, aside from being teammates twice now
Dwight acknowledges Marvin Williams dunked on him in high school.— At The Hive (@At_The_Hive) June 26, 2017
Dwight on Cliff and Cliff on Dwight:
"He understands me. He's been around me for a long time." -- Howard on Clifford.— Rick Bonnell (@rick_bonnell) June 26, 2017
"Coach Cliff saw what kind of person and player I am... He was always there for me... He was always positive." - @DwightHoward— Charlotte Hornets (@hornets) June 26, 2017
"We've always been able to communicate honestly and transparently with each other." - Hornets Head Coach Steve Clifford #BuzzCity— Charlotte Hornets (@hornets) June 26, 2017
On the Hornets:
Dwight Howard compared Nic Batum to Hedo Turkoglu.— Rick Bonnell (@rick_bonnell) June 26, 2017
"Great defense where everybody is talking and trusting each other." -- what Howard hopes will be what he'll bring to @hornets— Rick Bonnell (@rick_bonnell) June 26, 2017
Dwight Howard said it was very tough playing against Kemba Walker in the pick-and-roll. "He's a tough cover."— Steve Reed (@SteveReedAP) June 26, 2017
"I have so much faith in Coach Clifford and my teammates. We're going to have an unbelievable season." - @DwightHoward— Charlotte Hornets (@hornets) June 26, 2017
And some other cool stuff:
"I'm very thankful Coach Cliff gave me this opportunity. I think this is going to be a great place for me personally." - @DwightHoward— Charlotte Hornets (@hornets) June 26, 2017
Howard: There are two Supermen in Charlotte with me and Cam Newton— Steve Reed (@SteveReedAP) June 26, 2017
Howard said he's avoided confronting incorrect criticisms in the past. Sounds like that will change.— Rick Bonnell (@rick_bonnell) June 26, 2017
"I'm looking forward to getting out into the community and helping kids get to this level." @DwightHoward— Charlotte Hornets (@hornets) June 26, 2017
Awfully cool, right?
So here’s what I took away from this: Dwight’s a good dude and is probably misunderstood by people who hate him. He’s in this for the right reasons—team, family, community—and believes he has a heck of a lot left in the tank, even hinting that his best days may be ahead of him thanks to how much wiser and stronger he is now.
That said, dude’s quite the charmer and could very well have rehearsed all of this. I doubt that’s the case, however, as he came across as candid and sincere. You can usually tell when someone’s putting in on, and I didn’t get that impression watching Dwight gush about the Hornets, Clifford, and Charlotte.
I’m so excited for the upcoming season.