To find a coach who still believes in him, Dwight Howard couldn’t have picked a better place than Charlotte, writes Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. The June trade that sent Howard from Atlanta to Charlotte reunited him with head coach Steve Clifford, who served as an assistant with the Magic while Howard was putting together his best seasons. “Cliff’s going to push me, but he’s not going to ever be one of those guys who I would say would break my spirit,” Howard said. “He really believes in me. Throughout all the mess that has happened the last couple of years, this is a great opportunity for me to prove to myself that I know exactly who I am — to just shut people’s mouths.”
The “mess” Howard refers to comes from feeling unwanted in Houston when he opted out last summer, then having a similar experience in Atlanta after signing a three-year, $70.5MM deal. He averaged 13.5 points and 12.7 rebounds per game with the Hawks, but his playing time dwindled in the postseason and he was barely used in the fourth quarter. Clifford expects Howard to be inspired to prove that he still has something left to offer. “From the trade until now, I think he’s very motivated to have a great year, and he badly wants us to win,” the coach said. “The last couple years have been difficult for him. I see him as motivated to work. The success of our team is the thing that keeps coming up in our conversations. He wants to be a part of our team. And that’s his priority.”
There’s more today out of Charlotte:
- The addition of Howard may give Cody Zeller some minutes at power forward, but Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer doesn’t believe that’s his best position. In response to a question in his mailbag column, Bonnell says Clifford is considering the move, but Zeller isn’t the type of stretch four that most of the league is now using. However, Bonnell believes Zeller can excel as a backup center.
- First-round pick Malik Monk is unlikely to work his way into the starting lineup as a rookie, Bonnell writes in response to another question. The shooting guard out of Kentucky should give the Hornets a scoring boost, but his porous defense and small size at 6’3″ make it likely that he will remain a reserve all season.
- The release agreement that Julyan Stone negotiated with his Italian team may only cover one season, according to Emiliano Carchia of Sportando. Stone had agreed to an extension with Umana Reyer Venezia earlier this year, but requested to be freed from it so he could return to the United States to be closer to his ailing father. The Hornets had hoped to sign Stone to a two-year contract, but that will depend on the terms of his agreement in Italy.