MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- We'll soon find out whether this season's Los Angeles Lakers are like the boy who cried wolf or the cat with nine lives, because according to Dwight Howard, they have pressed the reset button on their season once again.
"I think this will be the start of a new season for us tonight," Howard said after the team's shootaround Wednesday in preparation for their game against the Memphis Grizzlies. "Hopefully our effort and energy is where it needs to be tonight. But, it starts with me. I have to bring it."
A little less than two weeks ago, Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said that the Lakers' "season starts Sunday" after a 116-101 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Jan. 11. Los Angeles has gone just 2-3 since.
Why should things actually change this time around for the 17-24 Lakers?
"I think it's a little bit different now," Howard said. "I just think it will be different. Our mentality might be a little bit different."
By saying "our mentality," Howard was referring to his own mindset first and foremost.
"I have to be more," said Howard, who is averaging 17.1 points, 12.3 rebounds and 2.5 blocks on the season. "I have to do more for this team. There are a lot of responsibilities on my shoulders. I have to step up and take it. It has to be me. It has to start with me. I'm a guy that has to dominate for us to win. We're not going to win unless I dominate."
The former three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year said that domination does not necessarily mean needing more shots and apologized for his complaints about getting just five shot attempts on Monday after the Lakers' 95-83 loss to the Chicago Bulls.
"That's over with," Howard said. "I can't think about it. That was immature. I shouldn't have done it, but today is a new day and today is a new game."
D'Antoni said that Howard's offense will come, but the team is relying on his defense.
"We need to get Dwight involved offensively, but it can't predicate, 'Well, you better,' because then he won't [defend]," D'Antoni said. "We need to post him up more, we need to get the ball more and better, at better spots."
Howard's 17.1 points per game average is his lowest since his second year in the league.
"People look at stats, and sometimes I myself look at and get caught up in stats, but stats don't determine the game," said Howard, now in his ninth season. "I can affect the game without even scoring the ball, so I got to get back on that. It's not about how many points [I score], or whatever. I've been immature in the past in thinking that it's all about shots because that's what people want to see. They talk about points and how many times you score and all this stuff, but for me, it's not even about scoring. It's just about dominating, and that's bigger than just scoring points."
Will Howard be dominating in L.A. beyond this season? The big man would not address where his head is regarding his plans for free agency when his contract is up July 1.
"We're not discussing that," Howard said. "Right now our goal is to win, and all I want to do is win. I have to put all my energy into winning and sacrifice whatever I have to do, humble myself and go out there and play."
The Lakers center said he is not surprised by the trade speculation surrounding him following a report by ESPNLosAngeles.com's Ramona Shelburne and ESPN.com's Marc Stein saying that the Lakers have begun mulling their options to move Howard.
"The only reason they're saying that is I have an opportunity to walk away at the end of the year, so I totally understand that," Howard said. "But that's my right at the end of the year. It doesn't matter what team [wants me], or whatever they decide to do. I plan on being here for the remainder of the season, and my focus and our team's focus is what we can do is to get into the playoffs, and from there, it's anybody's game."
D'Antoni was clear about his desire to have Howard on the team going forward.
"I don't know about Dwight being traded," D'Antoni said. "I don't put much stock in that. Dwight's a heck of a player, and hopefully he's a Laker forever."
D'Antoni also was asked whether he expected Pau Gasol to be on the team after the Feb. 21 trade deadline.
"Yes, I do," D'Antoni said. "I hope so. He's a great guy. Yes, I do."
The Lakers had an extended shootaround Wednesday after an off day on Tuesday. D'Antoni was asked whether the focus was working on offense or defense.
"Teamwork," D'Antoni said. "Most of it's about the Lakers. It's about trying to get our offense down right, get our defense right and get our minds right. ... Today is a little bit more time making sure we're right mentally, physically and getting ready."