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Lakers' Jodie Meeks says Dwight Howard loves city, team

April 29, 2013|By Eric Pincus
  • Lakers' Dwight Howard (12) celebrates his basket with guards Jodie Meeks and Steve Blake.
Lakers' Dwight Howard (12) celebrates his basket with guards Jodie… (Harry How / Getty Images )

Jodie Meeks built a solid bond with teammate Dwight Howard during their first season together with the Lakers.

Howard will be a free agent this summer.  Does Meeks think Howard will re-sign with the Lakers?

"I know he loves this city.  I know he loves the team," Meeks said.  "We got pretty close this year as friends -- from the same hometown [Atlanta]. I can't really say exactly what he's going to do but I know he likes the city."

Regardless of where Howard lands, Meeks expects the center to be a stronger player than he was this past season, when he was coming off April 2012 back surgery.

"I think he'll come back stronger and more determined next year," said Meeks.

Meeks has one year left on his contract with the Lakers at $1.55 million, although the team has an option on his deal (to be decided before July).

"I want to be here. I love the city, my teammates and the coaching staff," Meeks said.

In 78 regular-season games, Meeks averaged 7.9 points and shot 38.7% from the field, 35.7% from three-point range.

"My shooting was kind of up and down this season," he said.  "I know this system fits me perfectly.  I know [Coach Mike D'Antoni] has a lot of confidence in me."

After getting through the season without a serious injury, Meeks suffered a high ankle sprain in Game 1 against the San Antonio Spurs, causing him to miss the final three games of the first-round playoff series, in which the Lakers were swept.

"It feels all right.  It's still hard to get a shoe on," Meeks said. He said he'll work to rehab it in the off-season and should be long-healed by training camp.

While his offense was spotty throughout the season, Meeks was one of the team's better defenders in transition.

"Coach said I came a long way defensively," he said.  "I think I played pretty well.  I watched a lot of film this year, more than what I was used to."

Meeks still needs to grow as an individual defender but D'Antoni appreciated the energy he brought to the lineup.

"No matter if I'm making shots or playing well offensively, the one thing I can control is my energy," Meeks said. "That's what I try to bring each and every night and that makes up for a lot of bad stuff you might be doing on the court."

It was a tough season for the Lakers, especially with the long list of injured players.  Meeks said the team was resilient in its quest to make the playoffs, which it did by winning 28 of the last 40 games.

"We could have easily given up. I think we were eight games under .500.  We could have packed it in but we didn't," Meeks said. "The last two weeks were definitely fun, beating some good teams [while we were] a little bit short-handed."

By the time the Lakers made the postseason, they had only a skeleton crew against the Spurs.

The team is expected to bring back Meeks for another season.

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Andrew Goudelock put up big numbers in Lakers' loss to Spurs

Email Eric Pincus at eric.pincus@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @EricPincus.

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