Dwight Howard Talks to B/R About Keys to a Deep Playoff Run for Orlando Magic
Dwight Howard briefly spoke to me about the March Madness and the NCAA tournament. While he doesn't follow college basketball too closely, he follows one team in particular.
Howard told me: "I think I'm going to follow one team this year. Kansas. I want to see them win."
Not only is he following them, when I asked him what he thought about their chances of winning the Big Dance, he said: "I do. I think they have a good chance."
With the conclusion of the NCAA tournament segueing into the NBA playoffs, I thought it was appropriate to shift the conversation toward the Orlando Magic and the NBA playoffs.
Above all else, Howard seems focused on one goal, which is to bring the Larry O'Brien trophy to Orlando.
When I asked him what he thought were the keys to a deep playoff run for the Magic, he stressed several points to me.
Howard told B/R: "I just have to make sure I dominate night in and night out."
When Howard's at the top of his game, there's little that can be done to stop him. It seems as if every shot he takes just finds its way through the cylinder no matter how well he's being played on defense.
Howard is the equivalent of a boulder in the low post. Get him rolling and there's little that can be done to stop him.
Of course, Howard didn't want to be the only one looking to dominate his opponent. The goal was to get the entire team to...
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I asked Howard who he would have preferred to match up with in the first round, and he replied: "It really doesn't matter to me. I just want to go out there and be aggressive, and I want a championship."
The knock on Howard is that he jokes around too much both on and off the court. But when we started to talk about winning a title, he was all business.
While he likes to have fun—at times, on the court—he seems to be able to flip a switch and get serious when he needs to.
Whether he's frustrated with his teammates or not, he doesn't want to be the only one aggressively stepping up his game.
Howard seemed to hint at the team not settling for jumpers, especially if they're not falling. They need to attack the basket and get to the foul line, box out on rebounds and play tough, hard-nosed defense.
"So it doesn't matter, you know, who we play," Howard said. "It's going to be about us. Against the Knicks, against the Hawks. We just have to bring it."
Close Games out
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"We can't sit around," Howard said. "We can't allow teams to hang around and give them a chance to win."
The Orlando Magic have had their fair share of close games with mixed results. There are times when they pull out the win and other times when they collapse.
Howard realizes the importance of holding teams at bay, especially in the fourth quarter. A single run can alter the outcome of a game in minutes, if not seconds.
"It's a whole different ball game in the playoffs," Howard said.
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"We have to try to be consistent," Howard told me. "Every night."
While Howard started the season—by his standards—a bit slow, he's ramped it up in the past few months.
However, the same cannot be said about his teammates. It seems that different players step up on different nights, and if they can't do it consistently and collectively as a unit, their chances of advancing deep into the playoffs look slim.
"We have to play the same way night in and night out," Howard continued. "If we do that, we have a chance to win."
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Throughout our talk, Howard continually stressed one point.
“Bring our A-game,” Howard said.
He was very adamant about every player competing at the highest level no matter the opponent. Never take anyone for granted and play the game the right way.
"We just have to bring our A-game every night," Howard repeated.
He isn’t worried about who the Magic will face off against in the postseason. The focus and attitude will be the same at all times, and he seemed to hope that his teammates have the same mentality.
For good measure, Howard adamantly stated one last time: "We have to bring it, our A-game, like I said before, night in, night out."