Interviews: Howard, Roy and McMillan on Howard

Portland Trail Blazers forward Juwan Howard reflects on his career and addresses his new role on the team. Meanwhile, Blazers guard Brandon Roy and coach Nate McMillan discuss Howard.

Howard on staying in the league and dealing with people who thought his career was over:

First and foremost, I don’t try to prove anything to critics or naysayers or anything like that. My goal is to go out there and give what I can and give my best for the team. And that being said, I’m a very prideful individual. I compete and I’m very competitive. And I have passion and a love for the game. So, you put all that together, and that’s why I’m still in this league. And I’m still able to perform. Yeah, I’m not in my prime where I still can give you 20 points or a 18 points a game — where I averaged like, I think, maybe the first 13 years of my career. But I feel that I’m smart enough to go out there and trick some guys and play at a high level, and compete at a high level with some of the best of them.

On his ability to still contribute:

It doesn’t surprise me, because of the fact that I worked at it. I worked very hard during the offseason. I worked in Chicago. And my wife sometimes thinks I’m crazy. Like, hey, you’re getting up in the morning and you’re working out five days a week, and I’m gone pretty much, like, 8 a.m., I don’t get home until, like, 3 o’clock in the afternoon, sometimes, or maybe 4. And the reason because, I love playing the game, and I want to get better as a ballplayer. And it’s, like, ‘How can you get better at 16 years in?’ But I always feel there’s room for improvement. So I’m always working on, trying to find ways to be a better jump shooter. Still trying to find ways to be quicker off my feet. People talk about when you get older, you lose a step. Your fast-twitch muscle tends to slow down. And I want to work on my body in fine-tuning it, and just being a better pro. And, so, that being said, I worked out with a trainer, I hired him, and I’ve worked out with him for 16 years, and it his worked.

On his trainer:

Tim Grover, in Chicago. He’s become famous because he was Michael Jordan’s trainer. Now, in the past, he’s worked out, like, Kobe (Bryant) and Dwayne Wade.

On his game:

They look for the oohs and ahs. But my game has never been one where I’m going to jump over some people and do 360(-degree) dunks and give you the crossover dribble. I’ve always been compared to guys like the Kevin McHales and the Maurice Lucases. And I’m not just saying it because I’m here. People, of course, have told me that. The rugged, fundamentally sound basketball that gets the job done. But more importantly, it don’t really show up too much in the box scores.

On his new role on the Blazers:

I always enjoy a challenge. And I think that this organization has done their homework. They know what I bring to the table. And that’s why they signed me and brought me on board. A lot of people mainly thought, looking from the outside looking in, that’ll it’ll mainly just be a veteran to tutor the young guys. But Kevin (Pritchard), Nate (McMillan) and the rest of the staff know that, hey, I still can help teams win on the court. And I think I’ve proven that, like you said, earlier in training camp and in the preseason. But now, yes, we have an injury to a guy who pretty much plays my position. And I was mostly just a back up to (LaMarcus Aldridge) and Travis (Outlaw). But now, with the depth that we have, that’s where you’ve got to have guys fill in and step up. I’ve been working on my game, just trying to stay ready whenever my name is called. Now, there’s a chance. But it’s not going to just be weight on my shoulders. It’s going to be all of us together as a collective unit. LaMarcus now might get more minutes at the power forward position than he had in the past. Everyone’s going to step up. You’re going to see me play a little bit more. You might see Dante (Cuningham) come in. You never know. You never know what coaches think as far as, when we’re playing against our opponent, what type of schemes they’re throwing out at us. So, you just have to be ready.

On his relationship with McMillan:

I respect him, obviously. I’ve always admired him, watched him from afar, and really supported his work. I thought that he’s done a great job when he’s with Seattle. And now here in Portland, how he’s helped transform this organization into a winning franchise. Because they had to do some cleaning up, and he’s been a major part of that. Of the success, of how this team has turned around. And, so, from the time I’ve been here — let me back up a little bit. When we met a dinner, he was straightforward, he was honest. And all you can do is respect and appreciate that as a player. And so, when I got here, everything has still been straightforward; followed through. There haven’t been no surprises, haven’t been no disappointments at all. And, so, it’s my job to go out there and play hard for this guy, and I will. Not just for Nate, but for this team and this organization. And that’s why I committed to it.

Roy on watching Howard play when he was growing up:

I watched him with the (Washington) Wizards for a little bit. I was big on the Fab Five. I watched a lot of Michigan, when he was athletic and running around. (Laughs.) Not that he’s not, he’s just not quite as athletic as he was. But yeah, he was a huge star in this league. And I remember when I first got to the league, when I first met him, I was like, ‘Man, that’s Juwan Howard from the Fab Five.’ I was just, like, excited to talk to him. And then when he knew who I was, I was like, ‘Ah, this is crazy.’ But I think it’s cool that he’s on this team and he’s at that stage where he’s been through it already. It’s good to have him around. Not only to help me, but to help Greg (Oden) and help LaMarcus. Because he’s signed big contracts, he’s played on big teams, he’s been in the limelight, and he just knows how to handle it. So, it’s good to have him around, to be able to help guide us through it a little bit. And not just coming from coaches.

On what it’s like having Howard on the team:

Yeah, I think the biggest thing was in the past, we would get tired, and guys just didn’t know how to mentally bring it every night. And one thing I know about this team is, we’re consistent every night. And that’s with having Juwan and Andre (Miller) around. They’ve been through the league, so they know how to get ready for a game. And they’re teaching us how to do that. And, so, I think that’s the best thing about having that veteran leadership: There’s no let down. And there’s no room for it, because those guys will speak up and go, ‘Hey, hey. Let’s go. It’s four (games) in five nights, but this is the one we need.’ And they get you ready, and they kind of train you to prepare that way, because they’ve been in the league so long. I just think them, and with me and LaMarcus going through our fourth year, and guys like that — Martell (Webster) going through the fifth year — it’s just helped us mature so much.

On Howard’s love and passion for the game:

Yeah, I’ve talked to him. He just loves basketball. He loves being around it. And that’s something that, it’s not in everybody. A lot of guys don’t love the game. But he loves the game. He loves to travel, he loves to play. And that’s something that I think is great, because it rubs off on guys. It makes guys want to go out there and perform every night and just be professional. And I think that’s great. And that’s something that I’m trying to build myself up to be one day, is just the ultimate professional, and that’s what he is.

McMillan on Howard:

We felt like we needed that for a number of reasons. And you hope that you don’t have to get to that. But we felt that we needed that type of player to add to the roster. That was something that was missing. A guy with experience. A guy who can still give you some minutes. A guy who understood his role and would have himself prepared, if he had to fill that role. … Not knowing when or if you’re going to play, but always having yourself ready to play. And he was the perfect guy for us. He’s stepping in there. He’s doing some things. I feel comfortable with him being out on the floor, because I think he just knows how to play and where to be. And a lot of basketball is making adjustments and making reads, and he does that.

On Howard’s intelligence and veteran leadership:

Well, if it wasn’t for his mind, he wouldn’t be here. Because as you get older and you spend 10, 12 years in the league, those guys who can play 15 years, 12, 13 years in this league, you’ve got to have a pretty good mind, a pretty good feel for basketball. Because your ability slowly leaves you, but your mind allows you to stay there and continue to be productive. He knows how to play the game. So, when he had the speed and the ability and the youth, you can just imagine what it was like to coach him. Because it was like having a coach on the floor. He just knows how to set a screen. The timing, the movement, and all of that. His IQ is very high. And the fact that he keeps himself in pretty good shape, allows him to not only play, but help a team.

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