During a slow start to the 2012-13 season marred by injuries and the Los Angeles Lakers' dismal 17-25 record through Jan. 26, Dwight Howard was the subject of widespread criticism with respect to his effort level.
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But when he sat down with Time Warner Cable SportsNet's Kevin Frazier for a program titled "Connected With ... Dwight Howard" that aired after Tuesday's game against the Orlando Magic, he revealed that his surgically-repaired back was nowhere close to where it needed to be for him to be at his best, and it may have contributed to his issues early on.
"I would say I was really about 60 percent," he told Frazier. "The biggest thing was conditioning, explosiveness, getting my legs back, and my strength back -- my body. For a whole six months, I couldn't lift weights, and for me, that was killing me."
Howard appears closer to getting back to his All-Star form as he's averaged 17.6 points and 14.9 rebounds in 11 games since the All-Star break, including a dominant performance in his return to Orlando on Tuesday night where he totaled 39 points, 16 rebounds and three blocked shots.
Even though he's as close as he's been all year long to becoming the old Superman, he's still got a little bit of Clark Kent to shed.
"Even to this day, I still haven't been able to get back to where I was physically," he told Frazier. "But all that takes time."
Behind his resurgence, the Lakers have crept back into the NBA playoff picture and appear poised to create matchup problems for any team that gets them in the first round. Used to competing for titles each year, fans in Los Angeles have grown tired of watching Howard and the team suffer through a tumultuous season.
With LA winning four straight and eight of its last 10 contests, the Lakers have finally found some momentum behind Howard's improved health. Even though the team had its issues early on, he said he wouldn't change a thing with respect to how he approached his return to the court.
"I think I needed all of this," he told Frazier.