Dwight Howard downplayed Kobe Bryant's pitch as a reason for leaving the Lakers for Houston and claimed he was already a winner in an interview with The Times' T.J. Simers.
In the Lakers' meeting with Howard on Tuesday, Bryant reportedly told Howard he should listen to Bryant more often to learn how to become a champion.
"People twisted a lot of things he said," Howard said Friday night. "I haven't won a championship but I'm in the NBA. That's winning. I'm blessed to be able to play this game, blessed to come out of back surgery. Winning isn't all about just having a championship, but winning in life. Kobe never challenged that and nothing he said had anything to do with my decision. I respect Kobe, know who he is, but this is about me and going in a different direction."
Howard was eager to play for Rockets Coach Kevin McHale, a Hall of Fame player for Boston known for his moves down low.
"[Houston] was the best fit for me basketball-wise to be coached by Kevin McHale, one of the best post threats to ever play the game and [also] the chance to be coached by Hakeem Olajuwon," Howard said.
Howard then added, "And no offense to Mike D'Antoni, but we're talking about Kevin McHale, who had a million moves in the post."
Howard declined to discuss if he was dismayed by the Lakers' aging roster or uncertainty in their front office after the death of longtime owner Jerry Buss in February.
"I'm not going to sit here and throw rocks and jabs at the Lakers," he said. "It didn't end the way we wanted but I was able to develop a much thicker skin. I'm looking forward now to being the veteran in Houston."
Howard acknowledged the difficulty in taking less money to go to Houston. He signed for four years and $88 million with the Rockets, declining a $118-million, five-year deal with the Lakers.
"Walt Disney said, 'Big risks, big rewards,' " Howard said. "He put everything he had into 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,' and the sky was the limit. Now there's Disneyland and Disneyworld.
"It's a big sacrifice, leaving $30 million. Really, really a big sacrifice. But I want to win a championship and I want to get back to being the person who I am and have some fun and enjoy playing basketball. And I think that's what I'll find in Houston."
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