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Wizards, Dwight Howard downplay character concerns and locker room risks

Wizards, Dwight Howard downplay character concerns and locker room risks

The skeptics may outnumber the supporters when it comes to the Wizards' decision to sign Dwight Howard, a guy who may someday be in the basketball Hall of Fame, but comes to Washington with well-documented blemishes on his résumé.

His reputation as a teammate and locker room presence has taken a beating over the years. He has been accused of inconsistent effort, selfishness and being hard-headed, among many things.

Howard is joining his fifth organization in four seasons and many would say that's not a coincidence. The 32-year-old center has more to prove as a person than as a player and both he and Wizards' brass did their best to downplay those concerns at his introductory press conference on Monday.

When asked about the fact he's bounced around so much in recent years from team to team, including the Nets who promptly bought him out after a trade earlier this month, Howard first used humor to address the situation.

"I learned Magic for eight years. I traveled to La-La Land. I learned how to work with Rockets. I learned how to fly with some Hawks. I got stung by some Hornets. It's just a joke. But through all of that, it's taught me how to be a Wizard," he said.

Howard insists that many former teammates and others around the league he's friendly with reached out after stories surfaced from Atlanta and Charlotte about his effect on locker room chemistry. 

He said much of what is out there about him is simply not true.

"I've tried to find reasons for why I could be considered this type of person, but that's not who I am. I know that anybody who has spent any amount of time with me, they would know that's now who I am. They would tell you a different story," he said.

Both head coach Scott Brooks and team president Ernie Grunfeld said they found the same through their own background research before agreeing to a two-year contract with Howard. They are both NBA lifers and have many friends and associates that have been around Howard in the past.

One takeaway for both of them is that questions about Howard's passion for the game of basketball are overblown.

"We're not going to have a problem. Things are out there, some are true and some aren't," Brooks said. "I talked to a lot of guys that called me and said 'hey, you're gonna love him.' What am I going to love about him? They say that he's competitive and he plays hard."

"We've talked to people and everybody says he likes the game of basketball and that he's a very good person. We're not looking back, really," Grunfeld added.

Howard admitted that his passion for basketball had wavered in recent years. He mentioned his prolonged back injury as something that affected his career significantly at times.

What he believes re-installed his love for the game was being around kids. He would show up to pick-up games in the Atlanta area and it helped him remember why he was drawn to the sport in the first place.

Howard spoke from experience and on several occasions told reporters how ego can destroy locker rooms. He said he has learned to put his ego aside and focus on winning.

Those are the very things he has been accused of not being able to do, and not that long ago. At this point, it is understandable to take a wait-and-see approach. He has to prove the opinions about him are untrue and he knows that.

Adding Howard to the Wizards' locker room, which had its own issues last season, will create questions that need to be answered. But what is already clear is that he fits in very nicely on the court and that's hard to ignore. 

The Wizards certainly see Howard, as enigmatic as he can be, as worth the risk.

"He averaged [16.6] and [12.5] last year. What is there not to like about that? My job is to make it all work," Brooks said.

NBC Sports Washington's Tyler Byrum contributed to this report


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NBA reportedly close to televising a HORSE competition while players are in isolation

NBA reportedly close to televising a HORSE competition while players are in isolation

While we wait for the 2019-20 NBA season to return from suspension, the league may have found another way to entertain us. 

Last week, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported the NBA was working on televising a H-O-R-S-E competition featuring several high-profile players. 

In this case, players would shoot by themselves, presumably at their homes, and go shot-for-shot with other players remotely. The great thing about H-O-R-S-E is all you need to be able to do is shoot, leaving the door open for former players like Paul Pierce to get in on the fun. 

As of Wednesday afternoon, the NBA and ESPN's deal to televise H-O-R-S-E is nearing completion with a number of NBA stars on board to compete, per Wojnarowski. Chris Paul, Trae Young and Zach LaVine are expected to participate while the competition will also include WNBA players and a few recent NBA alumni. 

This wouldn't be the first time we've seen NBA players playing H-O-R-S-E on television. Back in 2010, Kevin Durant, Rajon Rondo and Omri Casspi played each other in H-O-R-S-E as a part of All-Star weekend. As you'd expect, Durant won. 

This follows the NBA kickstarting the first-ever NBA 2K Players Tournament Friday, where 16 NBA stars play each other in an NBA 2K20 tournament for charity. Kevin Durant, Donovan Mitchell, Trae Young and Wizards rookie Rui Hachimura headline the event that is expected to run until April 11. 

According to Woj, the details on the H-O-R-S-E competition are still being finalized with the league and ESPN, who'd ultimately air the event. 

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Jerry Stackhouse says he regrets time with Wizards, playing with Michael Jordan

Jerry Stackhouse says he regrets time with Wizards, playing with Michael Jordan

From an outside perspective, it seems like Jerry Stackhouse would have cherished his time with the Washington Wizards, as he was given the opportunity to share the floor with Michael Jordan, an admitted idol whom he was at times compared to as a 6-foot-6 star guard from the University of North Carolina.

But Stackhouse, now the head coach at Vanderbilt, views that time with deep regret. He looked back on those days on the latest episode of the 'Woj Pod' hosted by ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski and explained why he still isn't over the frustration he felt at the time.

"Honestly, I wish I never played in Washington and for a number of reasons," Stackhouse said. "I felt we were on our way in Detroit before I got traded there. It was really challenging to be able to be in a situation with an idol who at this particular point, I felt like I was a better player.

"Things were still being run through Michael Jordan," he continued. "[Head coach] Doug Collins, I love Doug, but I think that was an opportunity for him to make up for some ill moments that they may have had back in Chicago. So, pretty much everything that Michael wanted to do [we did]. We got off to a pretty good start and he didn't like the way the offense was running because it was running a little bit more through me. He wanted to get a little more isolations for him on the post, of course, so we had more isolations for him on the post. And it just kind of spiraled in a way that I didn't enjoy that season at all. The kind of picture I had in my mind of Michael Jordan and the reverence I had for him, I lost a little bit of it during the course of that year."

What made matters worse for Stackhouse is that his previous team, the Detroit Pistons, won a title in 2004, just two years after he left in a trade. The Wizards sent promising young guard Richard Hamilton to Detroit for Stackhouse in a six-player deal. Hamilton was the leading scorer on that Finals-winning team while playing the same position Stackhouse did.

"[Jordan] had a young guard there in Rip Hamilton, who I was traded for to Detroit, that he didn't feel like he could get it done with. So he was like, 'Let's go get Stackhouse, I know he's tougher and he can score, let's go bring him in here,'" Stackhouse said.

"Watching a team I helped kind of build a foundation for in Detroit go on to win a championship a couple years later, it left a bad taste in my mouth, so I was pretty happy to get out of Washington and get on to Dallas."

Stackhouse was traded by the Wizards in 2004 to the Mavericks in the deal that brought Antawn Jamison to D.C. Stackhouse would play five years in Dallas, only to see them win a title two years after he left. Two years later, he played for the Miami Heat, who would win a championship the year after he left there.

That's some bad timing on multiple accounts. Stackhouse feels like he missed out on a ring, but you could argue he missed out on several.

You can listen to the full interview with Stackhouse right here.

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