They see a natural-born leader. They got a guy that loves to win games, loves to play, has a total enjoyment for the game... I appreciate that they gave me the chance and I will take advantage of it.
Oh, talent-wise the sky is the limit for this team. It's a young team. Blatche, McGee, Nick Young, No. 1 pick John Wall and a host of other guys. These guys have tremendous upside. If we stay focused and stay dedicated to the game, the sky is the limit for them. I think that's one other reason they brought me in here - to be a leader. I think I can take those guys on the right path.
This cued the requisite scoffs from many out there on the Interwebs. ESPN Dallas' Jeff Caplan writes the Mavericks "might not be so quick to say yes" to Howard's words. Kelly Dwyer wrote, simply, that Howard was "hilarious, delusional." Meanwhile, Kyle Weidie at Truth About It got all philosophical about the nature of skepticism, deciding to give Howard a chance to follow up on his words.
I'm not going to get skeptical, per se, about Howard's language. We've all heard all sorts of wacky quotes from athletes that sounds pretty bad, but end up being benign or, better yet, coming to fruition. It's not like Howard said the Wizards were the best team in the NBA (like Rodney Stuckey did earlier today about the hapless Pistons). If he wants to believe he's a leader, then let him say he's a leader. He deserves us not mocking him.
This is my question, though: what do Howard's so-called followers think about him proclaiming himself as the guy who can take everyone on the right path? The thing is that Howard was the leader ... of the post-trade Wizards, a rag-tag group of players who drew motivation from playing for their futures. He infused ... something into that group, causing them to play inspired ball even though the team's season was over. That's not to be mocked.
But that's also not the Wizards that will take the floor next year. Next year's Wizards feature a point guard prodigy that needs to lead right away. They feature a high-scoring, talkative shooting guard that often can't help but put himself in the spotlight. They feature a power forward who has and will continue to see himself as the leader of the future Wizards already on the roster. In that setting, does it really help for Howard, who ohbytheway has just a one-year contract that he signed after nobody else was willing to offer him more than the minimum, to go in guns blazing (no pun intended) saying he's
the a leader?
It's an honest question we need to ask. Without seeing it play out, my first instinct is to say "no."
UPDATE: As a couple people have pointed out, he said "a" leader, not "the" leader. Apologies for the confusion, but I don't see a big difference. It's still one guy proclaiming himself as someone who should be respected and followed before the mix of players has come together.