Many remain bitter over his departure for the
"Fans are very passionate about their team and unfortunately the Lakers have the most fans in the world," Howard said Monday morning after his team's shootaround at UCLA, "so I think it's kind of a tough thing to let go."
Howard said leaving the Lakers after one disappointing season in which they were swept in the first round of the playoffs left an unavoidable distaste for him.
"I never tried to do anything to hurt these people in L.A., but I understand that they're just passionate about their team," Howard said. "When you do something that's best for you, everybody else might not like it and they tend to act in crazy ways, so you see the jerseys getting burned, the 'Coward' jerseys and all that stuff. But that's just fans being passionate about their team and it's totally understandable. I have nothing bad to say about those people."
Fans who've interacted with Howard since his arrival in Southern California on Sunday to play the
"All the fans I've been around have been cool," he said. "Nobody said, 'Hey, you suck for leaving.' I think it's just people on the Internet and people read stuff and they see stuff everyday and they don't really know what's going on. They tend to believe it.
"I've never been a bad guy and I won't be that bad guy ever. I'll always be gracious and happy to have the opportunity to play for the Lakers. It was a learning experience and I think it helped me with this team, so I'm glad that I had the chance to play in L.A. Even though it ended soon, it was a learning lesson for myself and everybody else. I think this year, you'll see a different Dwight."
In many ways, fans already have. Howard has more closely resembled the dominating force he was earlier in his career when he played for the
He’s averaging 15 points, an
“Your defense is better when Dwight’s out there,” Houston Coach
McHale said Howard has made big strides in his recovery from the back surgery he had in the spring of 2012.
"His health is 100% different," McHale said. "When we did a physical after we signed him, he sat down with our training staff and they were all like, 'Oh, boy.' He had a huge discrepancy [between] his strength in his right leg and his left leg and his glutes and his hamstring were really weak and his flexibility was completely funky. He really spent a lot of time this summer getting right. He's getting closer."
Said Howard: "I'm moving a lot better, I'm going to get balls that I couldn't get last season, offensive rebounds, blocked shots, all that stuff. It's a lot different. I've done a lot of work in the off-season just to get my body back right and I feel a lot better."