Dwight Howard had surgery last April to repair a herniated disk in his back… (Danny Moloshok / Associated…)
Dwight Howard has been coy about his upcoming free-agent status, often dodging questions about it, but he provided his latest insights Tuesday after the Lakers' shoot-around.
Does he see himself as the Lakers' cornerstone after Kobe Bryant's career ends?
"Yeah, I do. That's what we've always talked about since the first day I got here," he said.
When pressed further, Howard backed off slightly.
"The only thing that matters is right now. Nobody can control what happens this off-season," Howard said. "There's no need for me to make the decision right now to where I'm going to be in the future, but my goal hasn't changed. I want to win a championship and I want to win one here. I'm here right now."
Howard acknowledged he could do more to help the Lakers.
"I could be more. It starts with me," he said, saying he needed to get in better shape while battling back and shoulder injuries. "I don't want anybody to feel sorry for me, but it is tough. It's not as easy as I was expecting it to be, but I did come back early ... I'm going to do whatever I can to really get my body, my mind and my spirit in the right place to help this team."
Howard had surgery last April to repair a herniated disk in his back. He played in the Lakers' season opener Oct. 30.
He said he wouldn't let public criticism bother him.
"I'm not going to allow that to change who I am and put me in a shell. I'm not going to let it defeat who I am as a person. I've always been the same person -- fun-loving, I don't have a bad bone in my body."
But this is Los Angeles. And the always-driven Kobe Bryant is a teammate. Not to mention the through-the-roof expectations of Lakers fans.
"The spotlight is always on. I totally understand that and I knew what I was getting into when I got here," Howard said. "This is a great learning experience for me. This has made me a better person, a better man, and I'm looking forward to continuing to grow."
Howard can sign a five-year, $118-million contract to stay with the Lakers or a four-year, $87.6-million deal with another team when he becomes a free agent in July.
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