CLEVELAND — It's the start of a trip that will turn miserable in a few hours.
But right now it's lunchtime, Dwight Howard seemingly ordering half of the Hard Rock Café's menu before purging himself of all that has gone wrong the last couple of years.
He remains upset because he says he has upset so many.
"I remember making appearances in Orlando and families asking me to stay and sitting there trying not to cry," he says.
He wants only to please people, so much so that it's almost crippling. He's now working with Kobe Bryant to learn how to not care so much what people think.
He has found the master.
"It's a struggle for me, but I have to find a middle ground," Howard says. "If I'm going to go to the next level, I have to do it."
Howard says he won't shoot the jump shots in games that he routinely makes in practice.
"I hate missing," he says. "I hate missing so much, I miss. You know why? I'm always thinking I'm going to miss this and then disappoint everyone."
He's a head case, I suggest, and he replies, "In a nice way," his desire to make others happy a lifelong way of life.
He says that when LeBron James won the championship he cried, thrilled for LeBron and upset he wasn't playing.
He cries a lot.
"I'm emotional," he says.
He smiles a lot too.
"My mother had seven miscarriages before I came along," he says, his mother calling him the Miracle Baby. "I'm not supposed to be here; I have a reason to be happy."
He sang in the choir, was co-president of his high school class and comes from a protective family. Mom and dad still offer advice, and a cousin has been traveling with him since he went pro.
He remembers as a kid his dad asking him why he seemed to be the only basketball player smiling. Then his dad started to watch him play more, his teams losing and at the same time lacking energy. He noticed his son taking the losses hard and also lacking energy.
"Keep smiling," his dad told him, and so Howard does, although it's often misinterpreted.