DWIGHT Howard has had a stellar 13-year NBA career where he’s played with and talked to plenty of great players and legends. But a phone call from one of the league’s greats got the new Charlotte Hornets big man fired up.
In his first interview with Charlotte media since his trade from Atlanta, Howard recalled how his phone call with his new team owner, NBA legend Michael Jordan, got his confidence sky high.
“I’d just done a 2 ½-hour workout. After I was done talking to him, I wanted to jump back into the gym. That’s how he motivated me,” said Howard on Friday (Saturday, Manila time) in an interview with Charlotte Observer’s Rick Bonnell.
Since the Orlando Magic picked him first overall in the 2004 NBA draft, Howard has enjoyed success as a double-double machine and has taken his teams to the playoffs 10 times in his career, including the NBA Finals with the Magic in 2009 where they fell 4-1 to the Los Angeles Lakers.
But despite the success and the awards, Howard found himself with his fourth team in the last five seasons. Still, Jordan’s vote of confidence gave the three-time Defensive Player of the Year all the motivation he needs to bounce back stronger than ever.
““You’re talking about the greatest basketball player to ever play,” said Howard of Jordan. “For him to call you on the phone and say, ‘I believe in you!’ ”
After missing the playoffs last year, Hornets coach Steve Clifford hopes his seven-year relationship with Howard when they were both with the Magic and Lakers can help the team get back to the postseason. Aside from addressing a hole in their defense, Clifford said Howard brings his high basketball intelligence to a young Hornets team.
The 31-year-old Howard is as hopeful with this reunion as his Hornets coach.
“We do have a lot of history and I’m excited about the opportunity for him to coach me again,” he said.
Still, he has mixed emotions with the trade after a short-lived homecoming with the Hawks, but Howard vowed that his community work in Atlanta will continue even with him playing in Charlotte.
“I had just gotten a beautiful place in Suwanee, Ga. That’s the sad part – I finally started reconnecting with a lot of people I grew up with,” he said at a luncheon by the Urban League of Greater Atlanta on Friday honoring his service work through his foundation.
“But life has its seasons. My seasons here as a basketball player might be over, but what I plan to do here in this community, that will never end,” added Howard.