Interview: Howard on the Blazers, the end and passing it down

Transcript of an interview conducted Wednesday with Portland Trail Blazers forward Juwan Howard.

Howard on his season with the Blazers:

Coming in, I didn’t have a clue as far as knowing the personnel; knowing what kind of people they are. I’ve always heard good things about this team. I’ve always seen from afar, and appreciated and respected this team. So, by going through the season, what I’ve learned so far is these guys are competitors. I respect each and every individual. The fact that, despite adversity, we’ve maintained to stay together. Because you and I both know, when adversity sometimes (hits), it shows a true test of character. And I think in that sense, guys passed with an A, in my opinion. So, that being said, this season’s not over; I’m not going to speak like it’s over. We’re coming down to the home stretch, and I like our chances.

On how his body has responded to the season:

It feels great. Yes. I’m well-conditioned, and I prepared myself in the offseason for an 82-game schedule. So far, so good — my body’s holding up great.

On whether there have been any points this season when his body showed signs of stress from extra playing time:

No. And if I did, you wouldn’t know — I wouldn’t tell no one. But, no. (Laughs). I don’t complain. That’s never been my (modus operandi). I’ve always — whatever is asked of my role, I’ve always stepped up and tried to accept it. And more importantly, give a 110-percent effort.

So, I’ve been a starter. I’ve been a marquee guy. I’ve been a role player. I’ve been who’s been put on the bench and didn’t play no games, and then all of a sudden, been thrown into the woods and been a starter and put the team back in the playoffs with Houston. When Yao (Ming) went down with injuries. I know how to adjust.

On playing for the Blazers, being in Portland, and the team’s devoted fans:

I tell you. For this to be coming down to the home stretch of my career, ending my career soon, and to have a possibility to end my career here in Portland, it’s like a storybook ending. I’m happy. I mean that. The whole season, the support staff has been great to me. And I would be a fool not to appreciate the support the fans have given me. And not only that, my teammates — the trust and support they have given me. And coaching staff. So, yeah, I want to end my career off with winning a championship. If that do not happen — and it’s not guaranteed — is my career considered a failure? No. Do I leave being happy? You damn right I am. Because of where I ended up and where I landed. Here in Portland, where fans appreciate basketball; where fans embrace their team and cheer for their team and support them unconditionally. Hey, you can’t go to any other place.

On playing next season:

I’ll be playing next year. I don’t know if it’s going to be here or someplace else. Hey, it’d be nice to end my (career) here.

I’m playing next year. I’m playing next year. Let’s say that. (Laughs)

On coach Nate McMillan:

I love him. I love him. I love him. Great coach. And he’s not a guy who feels it’s his way or no way. He communicates with his players. He trusts his players. Him and I have a great relationship. He does a great job of communicating with me. And I think he believes in me. And I believe in him. And he’s a big reason why I’m here. I’m pretty sure he was one of the guys who voted to have me here. And when him and I met over the summer, I told him. He asked me what I thought of this team. And I said, ‘First, let me start with you. I’ve always respected and admired the way you’ve coached. So, I would love to work with you.’

On McMillan being considered for coach of the year:

(Shoot), he deserves it. He deserves it. The guy deserves the credit. We know over the past the success of guys who have won coach of the year: they’ve been fired. (Laughs) Hopefully that (stuff) don’t work here. (Laughs)

On what has made the difference this season:

It’s the balance. We have balance, I feel. You added three veterans who have been through it; who have veteran experience; who have played and been on really good teams and on bad teams. Won in the playoffs; have playoff experience. But not only that, they’re good guys. And I don’t think any other coaching staff, team or ex-teammates would disagree.

On taking pride in his contributions:

I could’ve easily just rolled off into the sunset and ended my career and said, ‘Hey, I’m set for the rest of my life.’ But it shows that I have a lot of pride and I am competitive and I have passion for the game. And so, I’m a person that, I don’t mind accepting a challenge. And when people doubt me, I don’t mind stepping up and proving them wrong. I feel you have to prove yourself each day. I’ve got to prove myself at practice each day, because I’ve got rookies on me. They’re pulling on me. They of course want to get in there and play, and I can respect that. But (shoot). I’m not going to come in here and lag around in practice and say, ‘I don’t have to come in and work.’ Nah. Not only that, that gives them a bad example.

On passing it down:

I’m passing down. Showing the guys that, hey, here’s an example of a guy who played 16 years. If you don’t want to listen and get the valuable, free information from him, soak it up like a sponge, then you’ve got to be a damn fool. Get your head out of your (butt). (Laughs)

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