Dwight Howard made 25 of his 30 post-shootaround free throws on Wednesday morning. The Charlotte Hornets and their coaching staff were done with their work for the day and as players were getting ready to head out of Philips Arena and back on the bus to their hotel.
Howard, an Atlanta native and former Hawks player during the 2016-17 season, wanted to stay a bit longer to work on one of weaknesses.
Howard took questions from the media after his free throw frenzy and is treating tonight’s game not as vengeance of a player scorned but as a business trip simple and plain.
“We just have to get a win, that’s all,” answered Howard after being asked how it felt to be back home. “I haven’t really thought about it.”
“Every season is different, every opportunity is different,” said Howard. “Everything happens the way it’s supposed to happen so I try not to think about the past and what’s transpired, but focus on my teammates, this team and what we’re trying to accomplish.”
The Hawks weakness this season has been interior defense and Howard’s 1.7 blockers and 9.2 defensive rebounds per game sure could have helped, but alas he’s in Charlotte with Michael Jordan, Kemba Walker and friends and the Hawks are without a top-level center. All of Howard’s numbers this season, save field goal percentage and steals (both down by mere percentage points) are up this season. Howard is making his first appearance in Atlanta since being traded over the summer after being signed to a 5 year/$75 million deal before the previous season. The 14-year veteran is averaging more points (15.9 compared to 13.5) than during last season and averaging the same amount of rebounds per game (12.7).
The Hornets are 20-29 coming into this game and currently in the 11 spot of the Eastern Conference standings. The Hawks are a few places down the rung, firmly planted in the the 14th spot a half-game ahead of the Orlando Magic, another former team of Howard’s that is faring too well these days.
The business of NBA basketball is no different than in any other line of work; one day you’re the apple of the franchise’s eye, the next you’re trade bait for marginal players – after leading the team in rebounding while helping them to their 10th consecutive playoff berth. Howard is familiar with how the league works.
“The business side sometimes can take away from the joy of the game,” said Howard. “I’m trying to find that joy that I always had for the game. This sport can end any moment so I’m just trying to enjoy the game.”
The last time the two teams met on Jan. 26 in Charlotte Howard had a few key baskets down the stretch in a Hornets 121-110 victory. He’s averaging 15 rebounds per game during the two games the teams have played this season, both in Charlotte, both Hornets wins.