"I think it starts with me," Howard said with surprising candor. "I have to really come out every night with the same intensity and the same effort. When I get tired, I can ask coach to take me out. I think it starts with me. I have to do a better job of playing hard. I'm going to try."
He sounded different. Genuine. Connected. Changed.
"All I could think about [Thursday at Buss' memorial] was his legacy, what he stood for, how he changed the whole culture of the NBA, sports, L.A.," Howard said. "It meant a lot to me to hear what people were saying about him and thinking about everything I've seen since I've been here, since I've been a Laker."
I heard him say this last night. The part about being responsible and I thought wow that's the first time he's said something like that since he got here. It's the first time he didn't say "we as a team have to do this or that". He said "I". He took responsibility and he said that he knows the game starts and stops with him and Kobe. As the two best players it's on them to bring it every single night and to give the team the energy they need to be successful.
But I think most of all he might be learning that winning is the most fun. Winning is the thing that separates you from everything else. Dr. Buss's funeral would still have remained touching. He still would have had a lot of great speakers say a lot of great things. But the one thread that connects Jerry West to Magic Johnson to Shaquille O'Neal to Kobe Bryant is the fact that Dr. Buss wanted to win every bit as much as they did. That's why legends in the industry stood up for him, teared up for him, and came to work for the Lakers even after they retired.
If Dwight can understand that, then we just might make this team work. It's about 50 games too late, but if Dwight can understand what it means to be a Laker, then maybe the future isn't as rocky as everybody thought. Because the Dwight of the last two games looks unstoppable again and he's FAR from healthy.