Can Lakers Fans Believe in the New Dwight Howard?

Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard has looked more focused and energetic in games played since the All-Star break, and in a candid interview with ESPN's Ramona Shelburne after Saturday afternoon's practice, Howard revealed his inspiration.

Howard said that he cut sugar entirely out of his diet to prepare himself physically, and in an act of submission that should improve his mental state, Howard finally admitted there may be some truth to the things teammate Kobe Bryant has been trying to tell him.

"It's going to make me a better man and a better player from watching Kobe," Howard said.

Playing in Los Angeles, for a franchise with expectations as high as the Lakers, is "a lot different," Howard said.

"Besides just the expectations," he said. "In games, I mess up and there's somebody in the crowd saying something and I'm ready to snap at 'em. That's not what we're supposed to do.

"But you look at a guy like Kobe and he doesn't care about nothing but going out there and playing hard. That's a lesson a lot of us have to learn—especially young guys."

In the Lakers' last two games, Howard's epiphany has been certified by his play on the court, as his 22 points and 14 rebounds per game in that span has helped the Lakers reach the brink of qualifying for the postseason.

In that same period of time, Bryant has averaged 41 points and 12 assists of his own, and Howard and Bryant have never looked more in sync at any point this season.

Howard's commitment to defense and his decision to embrace the pick-and-roll has led to glimpses of the same dominant player who roamed the paint in Orlando, and his very public admission concerning Kobe's impact can only serve to strengthen their relationship.

According to Howard, that relationship with Kobe has always been good, but their experience this season has deepened their bond.


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