(Gotta love the foreign commentary.)
Dwight Howard points to the Boston Celtics series as the moment when he stopped being Mr. Nice Guy. (CBS Sports)
“Losing the way we did to Boston, I think it kind of pissed me off to the point that I didn’t want our team to be looked at as the team that lost to Boston the way we did,” Howard said. “[It was] the way we were viewed by the media, the way I was viewed.
“I went from this nice guy to this goon or something like that. And I’m like, ‘Hey, I’m playing basketball. If they’re going to be physical, we’re going to be physical.’ People were saying our team wasn’t physical and I didn’t like that. I’m a physical player and I want my teammates to be the same way. If people are calling us a team that doesn’t like to be physical, I don’t like that.”
Howard said the turning point was after Orlando fell behind 3-0 to Boston in the conference finals, having been eviscerated at every turn by the Celtics’ smothering defense and the dominant play of Rajon Rondo. It took that kind of embarrassment, that kind of wakeup call for something to click.
“I wasn’t about to lie down in front of my teammates,” Howard said. “I just had to figure out a way to do whatever I can to try to get our team back in the series.”
It was too late to come back and win the series, but Howard believes he planted the seeds for the season that is upon him now. In the consecutive games Orlando won when facing elimination, Howard was unstoppable with 53 points, 26 rebounds and nine blocks. (“I found out I had another gear in me,” he said.)
“I really learned how to talk to my teammates, be a better leader, be more vocal,” Howard said. “But also in the locker room, show my teammates a different side of me. The side that most people always see is me smiling and having fun, which is great. But I showed my teammates that when it’s time to get serious, then it’s time to get serious. And I’m going to expect them to do the same.”
My question is this: why’d it take being down 3-0 to trigger something in Howard? Why wasn’t it “time to get serious” after losing two straight at home to fall into a 2-0 deficit? Here’s what ”Superman” did in Game 3, which (oh by the way) happened to be a must-win game — seven points, seven rebounds, one 94-71 loss. Nicely done, Dwight! You really showed your teammates that when it’s time to get serious, then it’s time to get serious!
Sure, Dwight played well the final three games of that series. You could even call his play in those games dominant. But next year, he should probably understand that “it’s time to get serious” as soon as the playoffs start. Getting serious when you’re down 3-0 never seems to work out.