HOUSTON — Dwight Howard was among the more popular players in terms of media attention on Friday, and it wasn’t because of his sparkling smile or fun-loving personality.
All of the players participating in the events of All-Star weekend had group availability sessions, and between the constant struggles of the Lakers this season and Howard’s impending free agency, he was a prime choice to be targeted in order to get his thoughts on both of those topics.
While Dwight chose to continue to avoid getting into the specifics of whether or not he’ll re-sign with the Lakers, he did make it clear that he’s not worried about being dealt by the team before the Feb. 21 trade deadline.
“They told me they weren’t going to trade me,” Howard said. “I’d be surprised. They told me they wouldn’t trade me. That’s what [Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak] said.”
Now that Howard has assurances from the team that they’re committed to building a winner around him, it would only have been polite to reciprocate by saying he’d stay in Los Angeles beyond this season. He’s not ready to do that, however, and tried to explain his reasoning for keeping his options open.
“The only thing that matters is the present,” Howard said. “And right now there’s no need for me to talk about what happens at the end of the season. There’s no need to go back and forth about it, I just feel like at the end of the year, I should have my opportunity to make my decision.
“I shouldn’t be pressured criticized for waiting until the end of the year,” Howard continued. “I don’t think its fair for my teammates. I don’t think it’s fair for the fans or anybody to be worried about what’s going to happen at the end of the year. Our job is to come out and play hard every night, and we have to live in the moment. Nobody can control what happens at the end of the year.”
When asked if it’s fair to be criticized for keeping quiet about whether a return to the Lakers is likely, Howard simply said he didn’t want to go through the drama that followed him to the very end of his final season in Orlando.
“I had to deal with it all last year, so I’m not going to do it again,” he said.
Howard admitted the first half of the season hasn’t exactly gone according to plan for the Lakers, but said the team is doing a good job of tuning out the distractions as they continue to try to make things work from a basketball standpoint.
“I didn’t expect for it to go as sour as it’s going,” Howard said of his time thus far in Los Angeles. “There’s always room for improvement. We’ve had to battle a lot of things this year — guys getting injured, us not winning, and just all the drama that’s outside of the locker room.
“We’ve had to deal with a lot. But I think for the most part, as a team, we’ve done a good job of staying strong and staying together. It’ll get better.”
And if it doesn’t, Howard has the option to move on. When asked what would ultimately make him choose between the Lakers and another team this offseason, he summed it up rather succinctly.
“I’m going to do what makes me happy,” Howard said. “That’s it.”