It becomes about sacrifice, about putting aside ego and touches and numbers — about taking a smaller slice of the pie — to elevate winning above all else. LeBron James learned those lessons in Miami. Kevin Durant had to sacrifice in Golden State and came out the other side with a couple of rings. Every champion has that moment.
Now Howard is bringing those lessons to Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and the rest of Philadelphia, as he told the media in his introductory press conference (hat tip NBC Sports Philadelphia).
“What really matters is just holding up that trophy,” Howard added. “So that would be my message to everybody on the team. What are you willing to give up to get that trophy? Sometimes you got to give up everything…
“For me in the past, the things that have hindered me were my ego and also injuries. Those are two major components of a team and players not being able to reach their full potential. So for us to win, we have to take our egos away. Put our egos aside… and the other part is staying healthy. We’ve gotta do our best job of making sure we eat properly, get the proper amount of rest, and we don’t overdo it.
“And trust each other. And I think by doing that with this team that we have and Joel being one of the best bigs in this league, and Ben Simmons coming back off injury, I think we have the tools and the talent, but we also have the right coaching staff to put this team over the hump. I believe that this is our year.”
Coming off a disappointing season, Philadelphia shook things up — Doc Rivers is now the head coach and Daryl Morey is running basketball operations. That has led to a roster shake-up where gone are Josh Richardson and Al Horford, their starting lineup spots taken by shooters such as Seth Curry and Danny Green. Whether or not Embiid and Simmons can win at the highest levels together is the ultimate question (they came close a couple of years ago, however, with Jimmy Butler leading the way), but this roster and staff is the best chance they have.
Howard understands his role now and will come off the bench in Philadelphia behind Embiid, likely providing solid backup minutes.
Howard also was a guy who almost made it to the mountain top as the best player on a team — he led the Magic to the 2009 NBA Finals but fell to Kobe’s Lakers — and didn’t get a ring until much later in his career. After some hard lessons. Now he’s ready to pass those lessons along to Embiid and the Sixers team, and Howard will certainly be echoing the lessons championship coach Doc Rivers will be preaching.
Whether the 76ers are ready to listen, absorb, and apply those lessons will say a lot about just how far they go in the East next season.