As the Lakers huddled up following practice, Dwight Howard left his teammates with these parting words.
“Championship on three,” Howard said before everyone repeated their stated goal.
The Lakers center will likely have more messages as the team prepares for Game 1 Sunday of its first-round series against the San Antonio Spurs. Howard plans to host a team dinner tonight, a custom he had done in his eight seasons with the Orlando Magic.
“I think it’s inspirational,” Howard said. “Every team that has aspirations to win a championship before the playoff starts sits down and just talks. I’ve been doing it in Orlando since we’ve gone to the playoffs. It’s not anything new.”
But it is new for Howard wearing a Lakers uniform.
In past seasons, Kobe Bryant led such dinners and provided messages about the team’s championship hopes. But Bryant remains sidelined for at least the next six to nine months because of a torn left Achilles’ tendon. Howard, who has visited Bryant in recent days at his Newport Beach residence, joked “we might have the Mamba chopper” to ensure Bryant can join the team dinner.
But Howard sounded like he had intentions of giving a speech. Prior to the Magic’s eventual loss to the Lakers in the 2009 NBA Finals, Howard brought his 2008 Beijing Olympics gold medal to a team dinner and then explained how he and his teammates willingly sacrificed their role for the sake of winning.
What will Howard say this year?
“I can’t just get up and tell you what I’m going to do,” he said. “That’s just something that comes off the top of my head. I just want to talk to the guys. It’s been a long season. Everything that happened in the regular season is behind us. So we’re moving forward.”
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org