Dwight Howard was back in his hometown Friday, thrilling a group of kids from the Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Atlanta who had no idea the Orlando Magic star and Atlanta native was coming for lunch. But before he took questions, he had one request.
“Please, no questions about the Miami Heat,” he said. “I was just over in China for two weeks and that’s all I heard: ‘What do you think about LeBron?’”
Nonetheless, Howard granted this corner of the blogosphere a few minutes to discuss a few items of interest to Atlanta fans: The Heat, the Hawks and Shaquille O’Neal.
In the process, he also let something slip: The Hawks’ Josh Smith, his childhood friend, is getting married.The reason I know this is because when I asked Howard how long he was in town for, he said, “Until Sunday. Josh is getting married tomorrow night and I’m the best man at his wedding.”
Howard smiled and suddenly suffered from memory loss when asked specifics about the wedding. But a Hawks official confirmed Smith, who has been in a long-term relationship with Alexandria Lopez, is getting married at an Atlanta hotel Saturday night.
OK, enough with the People magazine stuff. Here’s Howard on some hoop issues. You should be able to pick up on some sarcasm early
♦ On LeBron James’ signing show on ESPN: “I was in Atlanta at the time, watching it. The Decision. The Presidential Decision, 2010. Yeah.”
♦ On fans conceding the Eastern Conference to the Heat, following the free agent signings of James and Chris Bosh and the re-signing of Dwyane Wade: “We don’t think about it like that. They’ve still got to play games. It looks good on paper. It looks good playing a video game. But this is real life. We’re looking forward to playing them. They’re going to be a real good team but that doesn’t mean they’re going to win a championship.”
♦ On whether Shaquille O’Neal can still play: “He’s still a big body. He’s different than he was back in the day but he’s still big. He can be a great fit for a team to help them win. I think his presence in the locker room will be needed more than anything at this point in his career. If he would embrace whatever team he’s on, he has a lot of knowledge and he could help a team grow.”
♦ On whether O’Neal would be a good fit for the Hawks: “I don’t know. I like their lineup now. I know a lot of people get mad and say they’re not big on the inside, but they’re a big team. They’ve got big guards. They’ve got big forwards. They’ve got a flying forward [Smith]. So it doesn’t really matter about having a seven-footer.
♦ On the belief by some that the Hawks need Shaq to get past Magic: “That’s only four games out of the season. You have to look long term and what’s best for your team. Cleveland got Shaq to match up with the Magic. They also got Antawn Jamison to match up with the Magic. But they didn’t even play the Magic. They played Boston [and lost]. You match up for the league, not just one team.”
One final thing before we jump to the comments about LeBron and Shaq. The Big Brothers and Big Sisters are celebrating their 50th anniversary in Atlanta and I wanted to give them some recognition. They have 3,200 successful matches in a 12-county area and are looking for 800 more. If you can help out, they can be reached at 404-601-7000 and at bbbsatl.org.
OK, so what do you think about Howard’s comments on Shaq, LeBron and the Hawks?
Also, who wants to go in with me on candlesticks for Josh?
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