<
>

Josh Howard brings game, perspective

11/11/2011

Josh Howard is bringing basketball to Fair Park on Saturday night with his Celebrity All-Star Game at the Cobb Athletic Center (6 p.m.). At least there he knows he'll play for the White Team and his coach will be Dallas Mavericks guard Jason Terry.

That's about all that's clear with Howard's basketball future -- and that of other NBA free agents -- as the lockout grinds on (although perhaps crawling toward resolution).

"I’m just hoping to get the opportunity to continue where I left off at when I left Dallas, and that’s starting and contributing to whatever team and whatever they need me to do," Howard said in a phone conversation earlier this week. "I haven’t really thought about who I would fit in well with. I’m just going out there for the love of the game and, hopefully, I’ll get on the right team with the right players that will accept me."

Josh Howard sounds like a man -- and he is 31 now and he turns giddy talking about his 3-year-old son Bryson, aka B.J. -- who gained a measure of perspective during a difficult year-and-a-half dominated by rehabbing from an ACL injury. In fact, he said he did broaden his outlook during that time as he prepares for a comeback in his -- believe it -- ninth NBA season.

Here's one bit of perspective that Howard shared:

"For me, it’s just about playing the game and having fun. The money is not an aspect for me," said Howard, who still resides in Dallas when not in his native North Carolina. "I’ve been blessed. [Mavs owner Mark] Cuban signed a deal for me, so that was just a blessing in itself, so now I just want to go out there and have fun with the game and get back to that point we were at in ’06 when I was here, just try to get to the Finals."

That is one form of perspective.

But so was his juvenile final two seasons with the Mavs, followed by a career-changing injury. The Mavs finally traded Howard in February 2010 to the Washington Wizards for Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood and DeShawn Stevenson. Four games into his Washington stint, Howard blew out his left knee and missed the rest of the season.

He didn't return until December of last season, missed a month, and then never could get things going. He played just 18 games last season and 53 in the last two seasons. Along with his rehab, Howard did a lot of watching from the bench and he began to analyze the game more and take an interest in talented, young Wizards, two which -- John Wall and Nick Young -- will be in action Saturday night.

"It was just frustrating knowing I couldn’t contribute like I wanted to," Howard said. "Overall, it helped me out just thinking the game mentally, from a coach’s aspect. I’ve been watching a lot of the young guys that are going to be the next talents in the NBA and coaching those guys, actually using some advice that I got from the guys when I first got to Dallas from like Dirk [Nowitzki], [Michael] Finley, [Steve] Nash and even Jason Kidd before I left.

"It helped me grow, I guess as a player-coach and even venture off into things I want to do after basketball, which is coaching. I had the opportunity to expand and it was cool, even though the season wasn’t as great as I would have liked it to be."

If that's the case, good for Josh Howard.