HOUSTON — New Rocket Dwight Howard is healthy and talking about bringing a championship to Houston.
“We have an opportunity to do something special if we stay together and stay focused,” Howard said Friday on the eve of Houston’s training camp.
He was slowed last year after offseason back surgery, which played a part in a disappointing and difficult season with the Lakers. The center’s signing propelled the James Harden-led Rockets from a young and talented group to immediate contenders.
“For me, being healthy, I think it’s going to bring back a lot of the things that I’ve done in the past,” Howard said. “I’m very excited about it.”
The Rockets gave him a four-year deal worth about $88 million, a year less and far below the $118 million the Lakers could have offered. But Howard was ready for a fresh start after a tumultuous time in Los Angeles, which included an admission that there were times that he wasn’t having fun and what many believed to be a strained relationship with Kobe Bryant.
He wasn’t interested in talking too much about last season, but acknowledged the difficulties of the year.
“It happened,” he said. “It’s over with. It didn’t work out on both sides, so we have to move on.”
Then he raved about the relationships he’s already built with his new teammates and his excitement about playing on such a young, energetic team.
“I’m in a better place mentally, spiritually and physically,” Howard said.
Howard, point guard Jeremy Lin and Harden were among several players who spent time in Aspen, Colo. in the offseason working with Houston great Hakeem Olajuwon. Howard and Lin separately relayed a story about a time during the workouts where Lin lobbed a bad and high pass intended for Howard.
Lin immediately began to apologize for the errant throw, but there was no need. Howard jumped up to grab it and dunked it with ease.
“I was like: ‘Oh, wow. OK, that’s good for me,”’ Lin said of that moment. “He makes my job easier.”