Dwight Howard finally said out loud what Orlando Magic fans have feared for a long time: Playing for a big-market franchise could appeal to him if he becomes a free agent next summer.
In an Esquire magazine interview released Monday, the All-NBAcenter said he doesn’t know whether he’ll choose to leave the Magic. But he did acknowledge that he’s “stuck in a tough position” and that he “can’t live for everybody else.”
Howard was asked whether he sees himself playing in a much larger market and whether his decision will be influenced by his drive to become an icon and make the world a better place.
“There’s more you can do in a bigger place,” Howard answered, according to Esquire. “I’m stuck in a tough position because I feel like right now, where I’m at, I’ve done so much. And I just don’t know what else I can do. I can’t live for everybody else. I don’t know what decision I’m gonna make as of right now. It’s been crazy. Everybody wants me to come here, come play here, come to our team, do this. It’s a great feeling, though, to be wanted.”
“You’re gone,” the interviewer then said to Howard. “I can feel it.”
Howard responded: “The toughest part for me is the city — the people. They’ve got burgers named after me in Orlando, they’ve got a website saying, ‘Please stay.’ I love the people in the city. I’ve literally sat on the bench with a towel on my head crying, because I feel the passion in the stands. I just think about what’s going to be best for what I want to accomplish in my life. And I don’t want that door to close on me, wherever that door is. I don’t want it to close.”
Howard’s agent, Dan Fegan, did not return messages from the Orlando Sentinel.
Howard’s contract runs through the 2012-13 season, but he can terminate the contract one year early and become a free agent in 2012.
Although NBA owners and players are at odds over the structure of a new collective bargaining agreement, it’s possible the new labor deal — whenever it’s reached — will include provisions that will help teams retain their star players.
In the Esquire interview, Howard was asked what it’s like to play for Magic coach Stan Van Gundy.
Howard responded that Van Gundy is a “great guy away from basketball.” But Howard also said, as he has in the past, that he has been frustrated at times with Van Gundy’s coaching style.
“It was very tough with Stan, because he yelled a lot, and I don’t want to be that guy to yell at my teammates along with my coach,” Howard said. “Because they’re going to turn it all off. I had to find different ways to motivate my team. Sometimes when you have so much negativity, it’s really hard to be positive. I had a lot of negativity growing up, so I understand how to block the negativity out.”
When offered the chance Monday to respond to Howard’s statements, Van Gundy and a team spokesman would not comment. NBA Commissioner David Stern has told league and team employees that they will face large fines if they publicly talk about players during the ongoing lockout.
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