Wed Mar 31 11:55am EDT
Trey Kerby: Hey Dwight, Trey Kerby from Ball Don't Lie.
Dwight Howard: How you doin'?
TK: I'm good. How are you?
DH: I'm good.
TK: Yeah, it sounds totally crazy where you are right now. What's going on with this Champs Sports thing?
DH: We're here at Champs Sports and today was the grand opening for the NBA Shop here. So we came out today, gave away some basketballs and some tickets. I also had my first opportunity to work. So I was scanning and helping customers shop for their items today.
TK: Did they take advantage of you're being tall to have you get things off the top shelves?
DH: I didn't have to do that much. All my assistants really did a great job of helping me out today, my first day on the job. But it was pretty hard.
TK: Did you work when you were younger, or was it all basketball, all the time?
DH: I never worked before. This was my first job.
TK: How did you like it?
DH: It was fun!
TK: Just looking at pictures, it seems like the place was packed. How was the turnout?
DH: Aww, man, there was a lot of people there. It was great. I enjoyed it. The fans enjoyed it, and that's what it's all about — making sure the fans have a good time. So I just tried to do my best to have fun with the fans.
TK: You were recently on the cover of Men's Health magazine and it had three exercises you do that help you look the way you do. If I do those exercises, how long is it going to take me to get shoulders like yours?
DH: Well, it might take you a whole lifetime. (laughs)
TK: ... yeah.
DH: I'm just messing with you.
TK: No, you're right.
DH: It all depends on how hard you work. I work extremely hard in the weight room, and also on the court to get better and make sure I keep my body in shape. It's all about how well you train, and how disciplined you are with training. You have to be able to stay on that same workout, and when it seems like you're not getting anything accomplished, that's when everything starts to break out for you. I didn't always have the body that you saw on the Men's Health cover. I had to put in a lot of work in the weight room and on the track. It takes a lot, so I'm really proud of the way God has blessed me.
TK: Do you think you're the strongest player in the NBA?
DH: It's hard to tell. There's a lot of strong guys. I personally don't even know how strong I am. My teammates ask me all the time if I understand how strong I am, and I tell them no. They tell me they want to simulate my strength on me, so I can really feel how it feels. I really have no clue.
TK: Speaking of working hard, you've added a hook shot and some countermoves down low this year. How do you go about adding moves and just getting better down in the post?
DH: I think people have the misconception that you have to have a lot of moves in the post. For a player like myself, it's just one move and a counter on both blocks. I don't have a lot of time to do a lot of moves because of the double teams and how people play me. So the main thing is just finishing in the paint, and playing out of the double team. I've been doing the same thing for a couple years now, and it's just understanding double teams and playing out of them.
TK: Has having Patrick Ewing as an assistant coach helped you out a lot?
DH: It has. He's been there more for the mental part. He's been through everything that I'm going through as a player right now. He understands the game of basketball. He understands life, and he knows a lot. I really enjoy being around him, and talking to him, and picking his brain apart so I can become a better player than he was, and just try to carry on where he left off. He's been a great inspiration for me, and I'm looking forward to working with him more in the future. I'm going to continue to get better and I know he's going to help me.
TK: You lead the NBA in dunks this season by quite a bit. What's your favorite dunk you've had in a game?
DH: I don't even remember. I couldn't tell you a dunk I did last game. It happens, and I really don't even think about it anymore. When I first got in to the league I was big on dunking the ball and who I dunked on and all that stuff, but now I just want to win games and win a championship.
TK: Speaking of that, you guys added a bunch of a bunch of different pieces this season, and then a lot of people got hurt, so it took a while before you all got to really play together. Now that you've been together for a while, you've been playing really well. Is that just a matter of getting everybody healthy so you can get on the same page, or is it something else?
DH: I think that's one thing that's gotten us to the level that we're at today, but another thing is that all the work we've put in in the offseason, and all the things we do every day in practice to get better finally started to show up. We're big believers in hard work, and how hard work can overshadow anything. We understand that. We work extremely hard in practice to get better, and I think that's why we're playing at the level we've been playing at as of late. We understood that early in the season we were going to have a lot of ups and downs because we have a new team and we all have to get used to playing with each other, and just playing with guys like Vince Carter(notes), Brandon Bass(notes), and Matt Barnes(notes). It's a new situation for our whole team, so we really just have to learn how to play together, and we're gelling at the right time. And I'm happy. I don't think we've reached our peak yet, but I think we're on our way to being that team we've all hoped for.
TK: Going in to the playoffs is a good time to be peaking. What changes once you get in to the playoffs?
DH: The intensity, for one. It picks up. I don't think people can understand how tough it is to play a seven game series against anybody. It doesn't matter if you're the eighth seed. When a team has a week to prepare, they spend a lot of time to prepare for every set, every game situation that happens. A team is really prepared for it, and the only answer that you would have over any opponent is how you are mentally. If you're strong mentally, you can handle the different situations that come in the playoffs. It's a whole different level, and it's tough. It's mentally draining for a lot of guys, and we just want to make sure we're there at the end.
TK: Sure. And you're feeling pretty good about the playoffs, I'm assuming.
DH: I feel great. The main thing that I like about this year's team, and this season, is that we didn't come out on fire, per se. We had to go through our little bumps and bruises to get to where we are today. One thing about this team is that we've always stayed together no matter what because we knew, come playoff time, we were gonna be ready, and I think we're at that point now that we're ready to take on the world.
TK: Yeah, you guys have really looked good lately. This is the last question, and since it's a Ball Don't Lie tradition, it's gonna be silly. This actually comes from my wife, who's your biggest fan. She wants to know if you and Charles Barkley ever really hang out, and what's that like?
DH: (laughs) Me and Charles Barkley ... we've hung out a couple times. (laughs) He's a real great person to be around. He really is. He's great, to be honest with you. We've done commercials together. We've sat and talked after basketball games. Chuck is one of those people that you would love to have in your corner. He's just that good of a person, and I love him.
TK: Good. We do to. And we love you for taking the time to talk with us, so thank you, and I'll let you get back to your schedule.
DH: All right. Have a great night.
TK: You too.
DH: Tell your wife I said hello.
TK: (laughs) I will. Definitely.
DH: (laughs) All right.
Many thanks to Dwight Howard for taking some time on a busy night to give us a little insight to how he's gotten better. And also for giving a shout-out to my wife, even if I am a little worried now.
(Champs Sports photos via Fernando Medina/Getty/NBAE)