Every year in training camp, you hear stories of players who now feel "as good as ever," or finally have "gotten over [insert nagging injury]." Most of the time, those stories don't mean much, but the Rockets are hoping one player who claims to be at his best will live up to the billing in his second year. Dwight Howard, who was excellent but not spectacular in his inaugural season with the Houston Rockets, believes he is finally fully healed from his injuries that held him back in Los Angeles and ready to dominate in his second year in Houston.
Here are a few quotes from his interview with Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports:
"I probably should've waited longer," Howard told Yahoo Sports, "but I don't regret playing right away. I wish the information could've come across to the world about how hurt I really was, how serious the back injury was, but I never thought it really did."
Trevor Ariza, who played three seasons with Howard on the Magic, walked into Rockets training camp and found himself mesmerized with Howard's re-transformation. "To be honest, he looks more athletic to me now," Ariza told Yahoo Sports. "He's always been big and strong, but he seems stronger to me, looks like he's jumping higher than he did."
After watching Howard in training camp, Rockets icon Hakeem Olajuwon told Yahoo: "He's a different animal this year. His physique, his spirit coming together with his talent and skills and health; he has an aura about him here. It's like he's gotten his youth back."
Howard has been embraced in Houston, and that's everything to him. He needs it. He's never stopped celebrating Houston as his free-agent choice. He loves the city, the franchise, the connection to the community. "I want to be here a long time," Howard says.
With Omer Asik gone, and no real backup for Howard on the roster, the Rockets have to hope this is anything but talk. They need Howard to be Superman this season and carry this team deep into the playoffs. It may just be training camp talk, but these encouraging signs are better than nothing.