Add Rick Fox to the list of former Los Angeles Lakers who are down on Dwight Howard.
Fox, who played a key role in three Lakers championships between 2000-02, said Monday in a radio interview with Max Kellerman and Marcellus Wiley on ESPNLA 710 that he doesn't think Howard "wants to be here," or that he appreciates and respects the history of the Lakers franchise.
"I’d like to see a lot more of the actions that tell me that winning is the most important thing to him, as well as being a Laker, and I don’t get that yet," Fox said.
"Maybe in another city he can fool some people with that, but unfortunately for him, in Los Angeles, you got a legacy of great players that have shown the city what it looks like. What commitment looks like, what championship play looks like, what championship talk looks like," Fox continued.
Fox, of course, played for the Lakers while Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant often openly feuded with each other through the media and behind closed doors.
"Even when there’s been inner struggles between teammates on the Lakers to actually work it out, once they hit the floor, you still saw effort that was respectful of the uniform, respectful of all the fans out here in L.A. that fight and argue with so much pride for the Lakers organization that we aren’t getting," Fox said. "And so, for my money, I’m not seeing a guy that wants to be here."
Fox said he felt Howard was trying to prove a point with the way he's played this season.
"He feels entitled that he should be given the ball, things should be run through him, and he’s trying to prove a point, and the point is that like, 'I, in some way, should be No. 1 and I should be respected and therefore I’m giving the effort that you get because I don’t feel respected.' At the end of the day he’s had teams where he’s been the No. 1, for a number of years, and it’s led to exactly what he has: no championships."
Fox isn't the first former Lakers player to publicly criticize Howard and the Lakers in this most disappointing of seasons. Magic Johnson, O'Neal, Robert Horry and James Worthy have all been critical.
Fox said he has thus far tried to keep his feelings private, but wasn't going to censor himself when asked questions.
"I try to dance around and be politically correct, but it’s hard to do that when the people that love this team, and care about this team, are more passionate and upset about this situation than he’s been, or that other people have been. And quite frankly, there’s no room for that. There’s no room. I don’t want to turn my TV on and pay my money to watch that," Fox said.
“If Dwight ever really took a second -- and I don’t know if he’s done this -- to really look at the history of the organization and what it stands for and who has come before him and what this is about, then he would never look at it for a second at himself as bigger than this situation.
"That’s what it feels like; he wouldn’t look across the locker room at arguably one of the top players ever to play the game, ever, and he’s butting heads. Would he butt heads with Michael Jordan like this? Then he gotta go, he gotta go.”
Q: Does Dwight have a championship mentality in him in comparison to Kevin Garnett?
Fox: “I don’t see it cause you gotta want to do that, and he doesn’t want to do that. He wants to still do it the way he thinks he should be doing it, which is getting the ball 20 times a game, shooting the ball 20 times a game. You know, really averaging, what, 11 rebounds a game? Come on, man, you got guys averaging 12 to 13 rebounds I could name -- [Omer] Asik, you got Kenneth Faried, you got guys that are doing 10 rebounds on sheer energy alone, with just effort alone.
Look, I get he’s hurt, I get he hasn’t been 100 percent. I understand all that. Playing with pain and playing injured may be his future. Maybe the future going forward for him in this league at 8-9 years in the league -- you don’t get any younger so you want to be in an organization, you would think you want to be in an organization that can surround you with other caliber players that can help you lift that load as you get older and go into your later years, and you can’t dominate like he did as a younger player. but Dwight is the same player he was when he came in the league; I don’t see a guy that’s improved. You talk about guys that go off and work on their game in the summer and come back and are better players for it. I see the same Dwight Howard that I saw three years, two years in the league. I don’t see a guy that has gotten any better as a No. 1. He’s a great No. 2 or 3.”
Q: He got Orlando to the Finals as the No. 1 option.
Fox: “He’s a 20-, 22-point scorer when he’s a No. 1 option. When he’s a No. 1 option he’s a 20- 22-points average scorer, not 28. Being the No. 1 option, he never averaged 25, 26, 27 points a game -- that’s what the top scorers are doing -- he doesn’t. So why would you give a big guy in the post 20-25 looks at the ball if all you’re going to end up at the end of the day is 20 points, 24 points?
"And that was my biggest issue with him as a center in Orlando, which was, you run four out and one in with Dwight and you say 'OK, we’re going to throw the ball into Dwight, and he’s going to kick it out to the shooters, great OK.' What happens when you stay on with the shooters like the Lakers did in that championship series, and now Dwight is required to go out for 45? He can’t do it, he doesn’t do it, he’s never done it.”
Q: He is a free agent after the year, shouldn't that affect his thinking on playing with this kind of injury?
Fox: "Dwight is totally thinking about his wallet. And it’s not to say there’s something wrong and looking to, you know, deal with your contract situation and secure your future and whatnot, but there is a way about going about that, especially in this town.
"Come on, you’re dealing with an owner who is always taking care of the players; money has never been a concern for the Lakers organization when it comes to treating the players right. What they do demand, though, is they do demand a level of respect for the uniform, a desire to be here. People beat down the door to get here and play with the Lakers; I was a Celtic dying to play for the Lakers. When I grew up I wanted to be Mychal Thompson -- go figure, right? I wanted to be Mychal Thompson. You either want to be here or don’t want to be here. You can find a ton of other players who want to be here, and I don’t get that from him.”
Q: How would you approach the situation if you were on the team?
Fox: “What I’m hearing is, Kobe may have confronted him and may have asked if he had a problem with him. I mean look, I’m about direct communication; I’m about you and me having it out, where we gotta go in a room, and when I look at somebody in the eyes and they look at me in the eyes, I could still tell if they got an issue with me, you know, I can tell.
"I don’t know if they’ve gotten to that place yet cause Dwight has a lot of anger or resentment toward his teammates or toward the situation of being here, or things not going his way. Or, as he’s communicated many times before, he feels misunderstood and people are putting words in his mouth and making him out to be a baby and making him out to be a complainer. But at the end of the day, all that stuff, he’s carrying that stuff and he still feels like he’s not fully being represented and he’s stuck in a point of view -- he’s stuck in his point of view that he’s a victim and that’s how he’s conducting himself. He is conducting himself like, 'I am a victim. Nobody loves me and everybody is making me out to be a bad guy.'
"All of that stuff seems to be the most important thing to him than actually just going out and playing basketball.”
Q: Do you think the Lakers will make the playoffs?
Fox: “Yeah, barely. They’ll get in. And then what? And then it’s the things that keep good teams together in the playoffs, that they’ve been doing all season long -- which we haven’t been doing -- which is playing possession to possession with an importance and an urgency that is respectful of 48 minutes of the game and respectful of your opponent. We haven’t done that consistently enough, and in the series of basketball the better team wins. And there are teams ahead of us that have done that consistently enough, who we’ll have to face in the first round.”