The Dwight Howard era has begun in Atlanta and it can be heard with the sound of cell phone alerts.
Howard has been a constant in reaching out to his new teammates as the Hawks prepare to open the NBA season with the addition of the center as the biggest change to the roster. Howard enters his 13th year in the league but still must navigate a leadership role with a new team.
“He has been reaching out to everybody,” Kyle Korver said Monday as the Hawks kicked off training camp with media day. “There is a team group text that sometimes I have to put my phone away. My phone is dinging all the time. My wife, I tell her sorry team chat. It’s usually led by Dwight. ‘Hi y’all. How are you doing today?’ And everyone is chiming in. I think the first process of leadership is building relationships and getting to know guys. He is doing that.
“He is really trying to do the right things for this team and that’s a great starting spot.”
The Hawks signed Howard to a three-year, $70.5 million contract this summer. He returns to his hometown after he left for the NBA straight out of high school and made stops with the Magic, Lakers and Rockets. While there were verifying levels of success, all three stops ended unceremoniously.
Howard is back home and eager to prove he is healthy and can return to the player that was an eight-time All-Star, five-time All-NBA First Team and three-time All-Defensive Player.
The journey started this summer but began in earnest as the Hawks opened training camp.
“A lot of the guys are super young and the great thing about that is these guys really listen,” Howard told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “There are no egos on the team. Everybody is on the same page. We all want to win. That is the only thing that really matters. I’m excited. I can’t wait to get going. I think everybody on the team is excited. For me to be a leader, it’s just going out there and lead by example. Hold myself accountable, hold everybody else accountable, to the same standard.”
During voluntary summer workouts, Howard shared what he has learned in his 12 seasons in the trenches with the team’s big men. Mike Muscala said he can’t help but listen to what the veteran has to say and Howard has been more than willing to pull him aside.
“Stuff in post defense, when a guy is posting up things to watch for in terms of positioning and what you are trying to take away from him,” Muscala cited as an example of the shared wisdom. “He even pulled me aside and said ‘If you are playing a guy who likes to seal you and if he is running transition, you can’t let him get good position.’ Positioning is really important as a big man.”
The Hawks left for Athens Monday afternoon and will begin three days of workouts at the University of Georgia. They will host a free open workout and scrimmage at Philips Arena on Saturday. The exhibition season starts the following week.