PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Dwight Howard is about to enter his 17th NBA season. He’s gone from first overall pick out of high school to an eight-time All-Star — which included appearing in the 2009 NBA Finals, and finally earning a title as a role player on the Los Angeles Lakers back in October.
He’s seen and accomplished a lot in his career, and now, he’s one of the newest players on a Sixers team that he believes is capable of greatness.
“We have to keep our eyes on the prize,” Howard said, “and I think if we do that this year, I don’t see nobody stopping us and beating us in a seven-game series.”
Howard, who joined this Sixers this past weekend via free agency, said he has followed this team from afar, recognizing their potential — specifically, young All-Stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. He recalled how Embiid showed a lot of emotion after losing in Game 7 of the second round two seasons ago, which showed him that Embiid “has the fire inside of him.”
It’s also expected that Howard won’t be the only member of the 2019-20 Lakers to be on this team. Once the Al Horford trade becomes official, Danny Green will be in Philadelphia as well.
Howard thinks he and Green can bring that championship mentality to this organization, which, of course, is led by Embiid and Simmons.
“That’s where it starts, with our two best players, and then you look at the rest of the guys on the team — they’ve all been hungry. They just never knew how to win.”
Green was actually in the last two NBA Championships, the latter as a member of the Toronto Raptors in 2019. He also won with the San Antonio Spurs in 2014. However, Howard just picked up his first title — and doing so as a role player at age 34.
Soon to be 35, Howard is fine with not being “the guy” anymore.
“What really matters is just holding up that trophy, and that would be my message to everybody on the team. What are you willing to give up?”
Although the role that new head coach Doc Rivers chooses for Howard remains uncertain, it’s safe to assume that it will be an important one. First of all, the Sixers have had trouble in recent seasons having a second center to spell Embiid if he’s on the bench — or worse, injured.
Secondly, it wouldn’t be surprising if Howard becomes a mentor to Embiid. And thirdly, Howard revealed Rivers was the only coach to call him during free agency.
“And he said, ‘We want you. We want you on our team.’ And then (President of Basketball Operations) Daryl (Morey) called and I said, ‘This is where I need to be right now.’ ”
It was pretty evident that Howard is thrilled to be a part of a team that many years ago featured a legend he admires.
“Wilt Chamberlain is my favorite player ever in life,” Howard said of the late, great Philadelphia native who won a title with the Sixers in 1967. “It’s the only player that I ever wanted to meet my whole life, and he played for the 76ers, so this is a great honor for me to play for a team that my favorite player played for. So I’m gonna give this city, my team and Wilt Chamberlain — I don’t know if he’s watching — everything, and hopefully, we can hold up that trophy.”
Of course, Chamberlain played for the Lakers and won a title with them too, but that doesn’t take away from the fact Howard is well-versed in Sixers history.
“I believe that this is our year,” Howard continued. “It’s been a long time since 1983, so I think it’s time we hoist up another banner here in Philly.”