El Segundo, CA-The first thing you notice about Dwight Howard is the wide grin and sincere smile that have the power to disarm even a black panther. The second thing about Howard is the energy and enthusiasm he brings with him as he did at his initial press conference as an official member of the Los Angeles Lakers.
His bubbly and cheery persona lightens the mood. He cracked jokes with the whip and timing of a standup comedian at the hour long event that sometimes can be mundane and routine. But there wasn’t anything routine about this press conference at the Lakers practice facility in El Segundo, as a large throng of the media gathered about to hear and listen to every word the defensive megastar uttered.
There’s something breezy and cool about Howard, something that his easy going personality exudes. Maybe, it’s the fact that Howard is the only player in league history to win consecutive NBA Defensive Player of the Year awards in three straight seasons.
Perhaps Howard’s light-hearted demeanor, which underscores and belies his relentless play on the basketball court, has to do with the fact he has led the league in total rebounds six times since becoming the No.1 overall pick in the 2004 NBA Draft by the Orlando Magic.
Howard doesn’t seem overwhelmed by the moment. He looks as if he is unfazed at now being the next big piece in what seems like a juggernaut of a Lakers team predestined for another round of championship runs. Now that he has the opportunity to play with the best closer in the game in Kobe Bryant and the best assist man in point guard Steve Nash, Howard looks and reacts to the media’s bombardment of questions as if he is right at home being a member of the Lakers organization.
After being bounced unceremoniously out of the playoffs the last two seasons, two years ago by the Dallas Mavericks, and this season by the young members of the Oklahoma City Thunder team, rebuilding was not an option for the Lakers. The y needed to restock the barrel. Without the trade acquisition of both Nash and Howard, the Lakers would have been playing second fiddle to Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and the Thunder for years to come.
As it stands now, the Lakers, without doubt, have to be considered the leading candidates to win the NBA title come next June. In many aspects, one might reach the conclusion that the Lakers have virtually punched their ticket for a couple more NBA Finals appearances with those two trades. Well, what it does is raise the bar of expectation. The Lakers don’t just play basketball to entertain. This organization competes for rings.
It’s not about just making the playoffs for the Purple and Gold. With 16 NBA championships, it’s about bringing home the hardware for the Lakers. Ready or not, Howard is expected to help deliver more. That is no laughing matter.