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Commentary: Dwight Howard cares so much it hurts

By T.J. Simers, Los Angeles Times Published: December 13, 2012

To remind himself how important it is to keep the game fun, he watched 40 clips of himself going sour in Orlando.

“We're lucky to do what we do,” he says.

He says he left Orlando because everyone from the owner to the janitor has to believe a team can win a championship. That wasn't happening in Orlando, he says.

He says he watched LeBron leave Cleveland and knew what was coming. “I saw people burning his jersey and I'm thinking I don't want to hurt these people like that. But at the same time I had everyone telling me what I should do.

“And here I am shouting for God to help me, knowing the teacher sometimes remains quiet. I guess it was a test.”

Once he made his decision to leave Orlando, it was going to be the best of times. But instead he finds himself parked in hell.

“Maybe somewhere between heaven and hell,” he says. “Purgatory. But it's going to get better. I know it.”

Howard will be a free agent at the end of this season. I ask him if he knows now where he will be playing next year, and he says, “I know.”

I suggest that means the Lakers because he could not know of any other opportunity at this time. But I still make a pitch for the Clippers, figuring he might want to play for the best team in town.

He laughs, and when I suggest that some opine that if this season falls apart it will persuade him to leave, he says that's not the case.

He says the Lakers are all about championships, and “what's not to like about L.A.?”

There is an expectation by some that he cannot coexist with Kobe.

“Why can't we coexist?” he asks. “Because we're opposites? I thought opposites attract.

“You know why we can play well together? Kobe knows how hard I work and that I'm all about championships. We're also entertainers, and for the two hours and 20 minutes that people come to a game they want to be entertained.”

So could you yell a little more at Kobe to really make it entertaining?

“We've already had our moments,” he says.

As big a kid as he seems at times, trying to sing in Chinese when requested by a Chinese reporter to do so to everyone's amusement, he offers this surprise:

“I feel like I was put on this Earth to change the world,” he says with conviction. “I wasn't put on earth just to play basketball. I want to change the world, and this is a great platform to do it.”

He talks about becoming an icon, “someone 200 years from now they will remember,” and I suggest he sounds like Brad Pitt doing Achilles in “Troy.”

“And he's better-looking, so he might have the edge,” I add.

“I would disagree,” Howard says with a grin, his charisma often as big as his appetite.

He says Lakers fans have yet to see him at his best after he underwent back surgery last spring, his friends wondering, though, if he has taken up smoking.

“I get so tired running,” he says. “I look like I'm in shape, but I'm not. My friends are used to seeing me run for 40 minutes without a problem.”

So far he's known best as the guy who can't make free throws, although he's capable of hitting 90 out of 100 in practice. He says he knows the problem is his own head, everyone filling it with advice, including an attempt to hypnotize him.

As goal-oriented as he is, he says, he will be better. In fact he has a mirror in his bathroom dedicated to reminding him of his lifelong, as well as season-long, goals.

“It's the first thing I see every morning,” he says.

He has also posted on the mirror negative messages and things he has read about himself. Obviously, it's a big mirror.

“I pray for the people who say bad things,” he says.

He seems to be staring at me as he says so.

“So what's the mirror say about your season goal for making free throws?” I ask.

“80 percent,” he says.

“So we know you're also a dreamer,” I tell him.

And he grins while devouring yet another chicken wing.

“I dream big,” he says, “and my dreams come true.”

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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