It seems like the Los Angeles Lakers' swell of pride has gotten to Dwight Howard, and maybe the security of the trade deadline passing, because he's acting more like a leader now.
The center talked to Ramona Shelburne of ESPN, and took the blame for the Lakers' record, explaining:
"You've got to have energy and I want to bring that energy every night. That's my job. They count on me to be that guy. I just know how much more effective I will be when I'm in better shape. And, unfortunately, it's cost us a lot of games. I knew that would be a process. The better shape I'm in, the more active I can be and the more I'm able to do on the floor. But it was a struggle at first because I just didn't have it in the tank, especially on defense. I didn't have a chance to really get in good shape. And then it's hard trying to get in shape during the season, playing a lot of minutes and traveling. It's very tough. But I'm trying to do the best I can with what I have and work on my conditioning every day. I don't want to pace myself. I want to be able to go all out, but you've got to be in great shape to do that. I know what I've been able to do in the past and I know right now I'm not able to do that for a whole game. That comes with time. But I'm not going to get discouraged. Once I get tired I'm going to ask for a blow, take a break, then get back out there and go hard again. There's no subs so until I get in great shape, some times I have to make sure I don't risk a dumb foul because I'm out of shape or fatigued. I usually can play 45-48 minutes without getting tired. Now after five possessions I'm winded. But all that stuff will come. Hopefully, if we continue to do what we've been doing, by the time we get to the playoffs, I'll be in pretty good shape."
While he still isn't the player that Lakers fans and organization were hoping for, it's encouraging to hear him open up about his injury, and be honest about how much he can and can't do. It's also good to hear that he understands he is to blame for some of the losses, since the Lakers intended for him to be better by now.
It probably doesn't help matters that if he's saying he doesn't have gas in the tank that he has to play in a fast-paced D'Antoni system. Since the system doesn't rely heavily on pushing the ball to the paint, you have to wonder if the front office knew just how out of shape he was, which factored into their choice to hire D'Antoni. Maybe they never intended on keeping the coach for longer than a year, but felt that with a (then) able point guard, and a slow, ailing center, this would be the best current option.
That's just one theory in a long list of them, but it's plausible.
The important thing is that Dwight is being honest about his injury with the public. His image is being battered, similarly to how it was in Orlando, so coming clean about what is really going on will win him back some points with fans.
It's better for people to know that he's still hurting and not up to speed, rather than them thinking that he just isn't trying and doesn't want to be in Los Angeles.