TNT’s “Inside the NBA” is known more for the constant ribbing between Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal and the cast’s constant banter than for any groundbreaking, serious moments or eye-opening analysis.
However, on Tuesday night, Dwight Howard joined the cast while O’Neal was out to discuss the dramatic ending to Game 5 of the Spurs-Thunder series.
During the postgame segment, Barkley asked Howard about his reputation as a dislikable player.
Barkley said when he travels and receives questions about Howard, he answers, “‘He’s a really nice guy, he’s a hell of a player, but for some reason people don’t like him.’ Why do you think [people think] that about you?”
Barkley also asked about Howard’s on-court demeanour and how he can appear disinterested at times, unhappy with his role on the court. Numerous reports have suggested Howard and Rockets co-star James Harden don’t enjoy playing with each other, which Barkley addressed.
Howard gave a startlingly honest answer.
“I would say people see me and they have seen the success I’ve had in Orlando, and they see me now and they’re like, ‘What’s the difference?'” Howard said. “And I think I was very likable in Orlando, and the way that situation ended, I think people felt as though I’m just this bad guy. I’m all about myself, I’m a diva, I’m stuck on being ‘Dwight Howard, this famous basketball player.’ So, you know, a lot of people say like, ‘You know what, we don’t like this guy.’
“And I hear that a lot. And you know what, it really hurts me because my heart and my attitude towards the game has always been the same. And my drive has always been there. … I’ve never been a bad person. It’s not like I want people to like me, because I know people are not always gonna like me. But if you get to know me, I’m laid back. I like to have fun.”
Howard also admitted frustration at times with his role in Houston, saying that as a big man who can’t bring the ball up the floor, create his own shot, or space the floor, he wants to feel more involved and helped by teammates. But he also said he needs to control his emotions better when things aren’t going his way.
Howard is entering something of a crossroads in his career. He can become a free agent on July 1, and all indications are he will opt out of his contract with the Rockets. Free agency may be a tricky situation for him, however. At 30, with a history of back injuries and a noticeable decline in explosiveness, teams may be wary about committing big money to Howard. Additionally, with questions about his attitude becoming a constant throughout his stops in the NBA, teams might be hesitant to sign a player who still seems to want to be the focal point of an offence.
Still, this was an honest admission from Howard, and it can’t hurt to demonstrate this kind of persona in front of a national audience. It may not change the potential problems facing him on the court, but it may put concerns over his attitude to rest.
Watch the entire segment below:
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