LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — When the Lakers acquired Dwight Howard over the summer, L.A. was elated and the purple and gold immediately rejoined the ranks of NBA contenders.
But all that quickly changed as injuries limited Howard's production and dominance on the court. Howard said he hit "rock bottom" when he had to undergo surgery and people questioned his injuries.
"I played through some tough games, but this wasn't something that was going to stop playing basketball," he said. "When people questioned that, that was the one thing that got me really upset."
Off the court, he struggled to co-exist with Kobe Bryant and find comfort in the big market spotlight.
"I don't have a bad bone in my body. So when I hear these things like, 'Coach killers' and 'Doesn't really love basketball,' all this crazy stuff, I just laugh at it," Howard said. "People are always going to lie and make stuff up."
"We'd never come to fists. Never shouted, none of that stuff has happened," he added.
But these days, Howard is feeling and playing better than ever. And wouldn't you know? The Lakers are back in the playoff race.
"We can look back a couple months from now and we're holding that trophy and we can look back at what happened at the beginning of the year, and we'll laugh at it," he said.
The Lakers have always known that Dwight Howard will be a free man at the end of the season.
It's a risk they chose to take, hoping they — and the L.A. lifestyle — could win Howard over and persuade him to stay.
"I'm all in. I'm trying to win a championship. I'm committed to helping this team win," he said.
But after the 2012-2013 season is over, Howard will be have a tough choice ahead.
"At the end of the day, Mitch and everybody knows, it's my decision to make," he said. "It is my choice, and that's what free agency is."
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