Dwight is focused and ready to go.
Photo Credit: LA Times

Earlier today, ESPNLA reporter Dave McMenamin wrote that Los Angeles Lakers Dwight Howard made statements that every Laker supporter needed to hear from their star center,

“I think this will be the start of a new season for us tonight,” Howard said after the team’s shootaround Wednesday in preparation for their game against the Memphis Grizzlies. “Hopefully our effort and energy is where it needs to be tonight. But, it starts with me. I have to bring it.”

These comments came after a team meeting that was held before Wednesday morning’s shoot-around. Mike Bresnahan of the LA Times reported that head coach Mike D’Antoni began the meeting,

Coach Mike D’Antoni started it by saying he was tired of reading newspaper stories about players questioning his offense or wanting more touches. Bryant and Howard each fell under that category after the Lakers’ lifeless 95-83 loss Monday in Chicago: Bryant said the offense needed to slow down while Howard expressed displeasure after taking only five shots.

Afterwards D’Antoni expressed to the team how they needed to improve defensively. Once he finished his part he allowed the players to speak, Steve Nash went first.

Nash, in his first season with the Lakers, said he didn’t care how they played, whether it was via pick-and-roll or fastbreak or whatever. He just wanted everybody to be comfortable in the system. It was seen as a sacrifice by Nash, who played four seasons under D’Antoni’s run-and-gun offense in Phoenix and won two NBA MVP awards while doing it.

Bryant also spoke up, acknowledging he could be “hard to play with” and asking Howard if that bothered him.

Howard’s answer was unclear, though he did not engage Bryant in nearly as vocal a manner as Bryant engaged him.

“He didn’t go back at Kobe,” said the person who witnessed the meeting.

It was not known how long the actual meeting lasted, but the Lakers’ shoot-around went an hour longer than expected.

Even with the team meeting coach D’Antoni  discussed his reasons for why the Lakers are not performing as well as expected,

“Have you ever watched an All-Star Game? It’s god-awful,” he said. “Everybody gets the ball and goes one-one-on and then they play no defense. That’s our team. That’s us. We’re an All-Star team.

“And we haven’t learned that there’s a pecking order. There’s the one guy, the two guy, the three guy and the four guy. It might not be the same guy every night but somebody’s got to accept being the fourth guy. And if you’ve been the first guy all your life, that’s hard to accept. And that’s happened in All-Stars and that’s what happened with us. And we haven’t overcome it.”

The Lakers have been in a season wide funk. Many hoped that in the new year the team would turn the corner but instead have lost 9 of their last 11,

“I think it’s a little bit different now,” Howard said. “I just think it will be different. Our mentality might be a little bit different.”

Elaborating on what he meant, Dwight spoke about how the team needs more production from him on the basketball court than off,

“I have to be more,” said Howard, who is averaging 17.1 points, 12.3 rebounds and 2.5 blocks on the season. “I have to do more for this team. There are a lot of responsibilities on my shoulders. I have to step up and take it. It has to be me. It has to start with me. I’m a guy that has to dominate for us to win. We’re not going to win unless I dominate.”

“People look at stats, and sometimes I myself look at and get caught up in stats, but stats don’t determine the game,” said Howard, now in his ninth season. “I can affect the game without even scoring the ball, so I got to get back on that. It’s not about how many points [I score], or whatever. I’ve been immature in the past in thinking that it’s all about shots because that’s what people want to see. They talk about points and how many times you score and all this stuff, but for me, it’s not even about scoring. It’s just about dominating, and that’s bigger than just scoring points.”

Despite these comments Dwight did not speak about recent trade rumors or whether he has decided to remain a Laker past this season,

“The only reason they’re saying that is I have an opportunity to walk away at the end of the year, so I totally understand that,” Howard said. “But that’s my right at the end of the year. It doesn’t matter what team [wants me], or whatever they decide to do. I plan on being here for the remainder of the season, and my focus and our team’s focus is what we can do is to get into the playoffs, and from there, it’s anybody’s game.”

More than a week ago coach D’Antoni made similar comments saying that the season began after the home loss to the red hot Oklahoma City Thunder. The Lakers have won only 2 games out of their last five since that statement was made. However everyone still believes that they will succeed. Coach D’Antoni believes that as long as the Lakers play as a team they will soon accomplish their goals.

“Teamwork,” D’Antoni said. “Most of it’s about the Lakers. It’s about trying to get our offense down right, get our defense right and get our minds right. … Today is a little bit more time making sure we’re right mentally, physically and getting ready.”