Dwight Howard celebrates after hitting a three-pointer against the Denver… (Mark J. Terrill / Associated…)
Dwight Howard says he's happy with the Lakers. Very.
But he won't commit to staying with them past this season.
"We're not going to talk about it," he said Saturday. "We're not getting into that."
He's sticking with the recent trend established by LeBron James, Chris Bosh and, this season, Chris Paul. Howard is another All-Star in the last year of his contract, waiting to see what happens with his team before making a commitment of another five years.
He admitted to some tough times as the Lakers staggered to an 8-8 start. He had only four shots against Sacramento, seven against Memphis and also noted Saturday that "when we play inside out, we tend to have better nights."
Exhibit A: He had 28 points and the Lakers' outside shooters made 17 of 33 three-point attempts in a 122-103 victory Friday over Denver.
Optimism, however, seeped out on more than a few occasions while Howard discussed the Lakers. He was asked a slew of big-picture questions because the Lakers play his old team, Orlando, Sunday at Staples Center.
"This is a place that I've always prayed that I could be a part of something very special. So I'm going to take advantage of it," he said. "From 1 to 10, I would give it a good 12. I love it. It's been a lot of fun. Just everything here, from the practices to just everybody. The motivation for everybody is championship."
Howard was there when Kobe Bryant yelled at teammates toward the end of Thursday's practice, angry at their lack of effort Tuesday in a loss to Indiana and at practice that day as the reserves pounded the starters.
"Sometimes it's frustrating," Howard acknowledged. "We want to win a championship and I think we're doing all the things we need to do every day to build toward winning a championship. Everybody's here late, shooting, working on their game. That's all positive signs for a team that's just come together. I like the direction we're headed."
Howard admitted it would be "weird" to play against the Magic on Sunday after spending eight seasons with that franchise. The more emotional time for him will be when he goes back to Orlando for a March 12 game.
"Orlando will always be my home. That's where I grew up at, really," he said. "The fans were great to me for eight years. I have some unbelievable memories. But like I told you [media] guys when I got here, this is a new chapter in my life. This is my home now. I'm looking forward to making a lot of great memories here."
Howard's run with the Magic ended acrimoniously. He asked to be traded initially to the Brooklyn Nets but a deal couldn't be worked out so he asked to be sent to the Lakers.
It happened in August, a three-team deal that sent Andrew Bynum to Philadelphia, gave the Lakers a possible cornerstone for years to come and pushed the Magic toward the bottom of the NBA ranks. Four months later, Howard had kind words for Orlando's ownership.
"They wanted me to come in and change the city. We did some great things despite how everything ended," he said. "We opened up a lot of doors for fans and business around the city with the new arena.
"We had some unbelievable years. There's no reason for anybody to hold their heads on what happened in Orlando."
Metta World's view
Why did Bryant erupt at Thursday's practice? Metta World Peace thinks he knows.
"Kobe was mad because we weren't playing hard," he said before mentioning the Lakers' general manager.
"Mitch Kupchak did a great job of putting players here so there's no reason for us not to have big scorers every night."