Dwight Howard ruffled some feathers earlier this week with some disparaging remarks about his former Orlando Magic teammates. The Los Angeles Lakers' center has since attempted to clarify his remarks, but that didn't stop several members of his old supporting cast from firing back.
An all-encompassing report compiled by ESPN Los Angeles' Dave McMenamin and Ramona Shelburne logs the initial comments that Howard provided to a local CBS affiliate, when he stated that the teams he played with in Orlando were made up of players that "nobody wanted."
That could easily be interpreted as Howard dismissing the quality of his former teammates, but he claims he was actually praising them for sticking together and playing with chips on their shoulders (also via McMenamin and Shelburne):
My statement was just to say that our team that I played with in Orlando, we were the underdogs. Nobody really talked about our team. It was underrated. Everybody overlooked us for the whole time I was there in Orlando and I hated that. We all hated that. We thrived off that. My comments were never to say anything disrespectful to those guys. Those were my teammates for years. They helped me become the player that I am today and we all got to the Finals because of that.
Based on those comments, it doesn't sound like Howard was trying to bash his Magic 'mates, going so far as to credit them for helping to mold him into the All-Star talent he is today.
Some of them are still not convinced, though, including shooting guard J.J. Redick, now of the Milwaukee Bucks (also via McMenamin and Shelburne):
I'm not surprised by it...I would be more surprised when Dwight starts taking responsibility. That would be the most negative thing I can say, but that's the truth.
Current Magic point guard Jameer Nelson also had choice words for Howard, as reported by Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel:
At some point, when are you [Dwight] gonna as a man, when are you going to take ownership and stay out of the media in a professional manner?
I would be less of a man to comment on certain things that people comment on about me and my teammates. We had a great run as a group, as core guys, and he was a part of it (reaching the 2009 Finals) and for him to say things about anybody in a negative manner, that’s up to him.
Alex Kennedy of HoopsWorld.com documented a response by Rashard Lewis, which hints that Howard has declined as a player since joining the Lakers.
Alex Kennedy @AlexKennedyNBA
By the way, notice that Rashard Lewis said they helped Dwight Howard "become the player he WAS." Not "become the player he is." #burn3/6/2013, 11:47:53 PM
Some may criticize Howard's decline in scoring, and even call him a coach killer or someone who doesn't love the game. It is important to note, though, that the Lakers are only his second team in the NBA, which is obviously a huge adjustment.
He didn't enter the lineup as soon as he could have due to offseason back surgery, and shoulder problems have plagued him as well. Yet in the midst of adjusting to a completely new offensive system, he has continued to play through pain and log heavy minutes.
The purported lack of responsibility Howard takes for not getting the Magic over the hump also seems like a moot point coming from his former supporting cast. Had he not been the dominant paint presence he is capable of being—particularly on defense—Orlando's perimeter-heavy rotation likely wouldn't have gotten all the way to the NBA Finals.
Just as the Lakers have begun to turn the corner and now sit at 31-31, truly in the thick of the Western Conference playoff picture, this fiasco has unfolded. It will heighten the anticipation for when the Magic and Lakers meet on Tuesday in Orlando, as well as adding to the distractions for the Lake Show.
Howard would be wise to avoid the media as best as he can leading up to that matchup, and let his performance on the court do the talking.