Dwight Howard: 'I never wanted anybody to hate me'
Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard said he never wanted anybody to hate him, calling his last year with the Orlando Magic a "tug of war between my feelings and the fans."
In a Sunday conversation with ESPN's Ric Bucher, Howard said that he wanted to avoid an offseason like the one Miami Heat star LeBron James had in which the former Cleveland Cavalier alienated an entire fan base for signing with another team:
"Everybody hated him for leaving Cleveland and what he did. I never wanted anybody to hate me, you know. I wanted everybody to love me, you know, like me, for sticking around and doing what they wanted me to do. And making everybody else happy. And that was a valuable lesson for me, you know.
Howard also admitted that the Brooklyn Nets were the team that he wanted to play for, and that part of the reason he initially didn't want to go to the Lakers was that he was afraid people would hold him to the same standards as former Lakers center Shaquille O'Neal.
Then, Howard said he realized that he can't make everyone happy and decided that the Lakers were the best fit.
He said that one of the first people he spoke to after the trade to Los Angeles was his former Magic coach, Stan Van Gundy. Howard said he had no say in the coach's firing and talked to him after the trade to thank him for helping him get to the level that he's at today. Howard is still recovering from spinal surgery in April and is expected to miss the Lakers' first preseason game Oct. 7. He said he doesn't want to return if he's 85-percent healthy and will instead wait until he is 100-percent.