On the eve before the Philadelphia 76ers start their playoff series against the Washington Wizards, Heavy spoke with veteran center Dwight Howard about his feelings ahead of the Sixers’ postseason journey.
The eight-time All-Star discussed his role in helping the Sixers clinch the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference for the first time since 2001, his ventures off the court, and the one aspect of the playoffs he’s looking forward to most — having fans back in the arena. Howard also offered details behind how he’s become the face of Pixstory, a social media app that all of his teammates have since joined.
“I can’t wait,” Howard told Heavy. “I really don’t know what it’s going to feel like to have that many people at the game,” recalling how throughout the season there have been numerous games with no fans, fake cardboard cutouts of fans, and then a limited amount of fans as COVID restrictions slowly lifted.
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“Now, we’re going to have over 9,000 fans. It’s going to be crazy. We’re going to feel the love and the support from this city. We’re looking forward to it.”
As far as facing the Wizards in a best-of-seven series starting on Sunday goes, Howard was direct on the topic.
“We have to take care of business,” Howard said. “We don’t want to play around with a team like Washington. Russell [Westbrook] and Bradley Beal have been playing amazing basketball this year… we’re playing a really solid team who’s only gotten better as the season progressed.”
Looking ahead, if Sixers go all the way to the NBA Finals, there’s a chance Howard could wind up facing the Los Angeles Lakers, the team which he and teammate Danny Green helped win a title last season.
“That would be great,” Howard said of facing the Lakers. “But you can’t look too far down the road. You gotta stay right with what’s right in front of you. Right now, what’s in front of us is the Washington Wizards. We can’t overlook this team. We have to respect our opponent.”
In Season No. 17, Howard Continues To Impress & Dominate the Glass
While Howard had plenty of praise for current NBA stars Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal, the 35-year-old big man is also having a great year. While he’s no longer logging 30-plus minutes per game, he’s sealed his role in Philadelphia as a key player with the second unit – and also the perfect backup to starter Joel Embiid. Howard is averaging 17.3 minutes per game and is making the most of his time on the floor, posting marks of 7.0 points, 8.4 rebounds, and nearly one block per game.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” Howard said of his new supporting role. “This year’s just been amazing. You know, I know I’m not the guy getting 35 minutes or 40 minutes a night, but I’m content and happy with doing whatever this team wants me to do.”
While most NBA veterans see their stats decline as the years go on, Howard’s been a force on the glass, especially when looking at it on a per-36 minute basis. Howard is currently leading the NBA in rebounds per-36 minutes, as CBS Sports’ Michael K-B pointed out.
“On the court, I’m going to bring the energy, the pain, I’m going to be loud. I’m going to be happy. And off the court, I’m the same way! Be doing it with the fans. It’s all out of love”