By Brett LoGiurato
December 03, 2012

Dwight Howard said he never wanted anybody to hate him. (Noah Graham/Getty Images) Dwight Howard said he "liked the direction" the Lakers are going. (Noah Graham/Getty Images)

As he prepared to take on his former team for the first time, Dwight Howard gave what was perhaps his most ringing endorsement to date of his new team.

"From one to 10? I'd give it a good 12. I love it. It's been a lot of fun," Howard said of his time with the Los Angeles Lakers, according to's Ramona Shelburne. "Just everything here, from the practices, the motivation of everybody here is championship, that's what we need.

"I like the direction we're headed. We've had some tough losses but we'll learn and we'll grow from it. We're going to stick together."

After an offseason filled with Howard trade rumors and discussion, the Orlando Magic ended up dealing him to the Lakers. The Lakers and Magic will square off Sunday night in Los Angeles.

Howard is set to become a free agent after the season. His strong sentiments about his time with the Lakers are a good sign he'll be willing to re-sign with the team. But he said upon arrival that he would wait until after the season to negotiate a deal.

"I think the best thing to do is talk about it at the end of the year," Howard said. "We just went through that last season, basically, and I don't want to go through it again or see anyone have to go through it.

"This is going to be my decision, and I'm going to wait 'till the end of the year. But I'm happy to be in L.A. This is a great place. I love the coaching staff and I love the organization for everything they've done for me since I got traded here.

"Hopefully, I'll have a long career here in L.A."

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