11/03/2010 - 08:54
The New Season, Skip's Lessons and Family Time
by Josh Howard

The season has started, and I just wanted to let everyone know that rehab is still going great and we're getting closer day-by-day. I tell some people that if it were the NBA Finals, I'd go out and play right now. But I still have to keep in mind that I had a kind of bad injury so I'm just taking it one day at a time still.

I got extra pumped to try and get out there when opening night came around in Orlando. Just watching these guys prepare for it made me even hungrier. I've been going harder in practice and individual workouts just trying to get the mindset right. In workouts I go over the plays that we'll be running for me so it's just about getting the feel for where I need to score the ball on the court for this team.

"One of the keys to our season is going to be Andray Blatche." (Getty Images).

The new guys are fitting in well and I still consider myself one of the new personnel that this team brought in. I'm still getting used to being around these guys on the court and figuring out what they like to do and what they don't like to do.

Practices get more intense as the season approaches. We were doing lots of running and lots of conditioning. Plus there's a lot of communicating as we try to improve. It's a new group and we're just trying to learn the game and learn each other.

I watched a few of the games around the league at the outset of the season, but I always have to turn them off at halftime. There's a bunch of hoopla, but it's the start of the season, there's always going to be that. It's good for the league. You can't get too caught up in it as a player though, the key is to just keep fighting, keep improving and keep concentrating on your team.

As I finish my rehab and watch our guys go out there and play some meaningful games, I'm just curious to see how they approach the game and what they learned through training camp. It's early. It's about learning and improving. This is a brand new team, a new beginning.

One of the keys to our season is going to be Andray Blatche. He's a guy that came on big time at the end of last season. Dray is a freak of nature. He can handle the ball like a guard and he can post up like a big, because he is a four. He can rebound and he has that will and that drive. He's also showing leadership as well. I think that's a new role that's been brought to his attention and he's taking the steps to take it on.

He's very important to the success of this team. He's our low-post presence, as a big man. I can also post and Al Thornton can post, but we need that big man that can post and show the other big men how to handle the big guys on other teams down in the block.

This is a really fun team to be a part of.

The locker room is great. We're constantly joking around and stuff. Guys are always picking on each other, but we're always having a good time. I was fortunate that I got to come back here because I like the opportunity to be around younger guys. I'm not saying anything was wrong with Dallas and the older guys, but being around younger guys, they keep me lively and keep my spirits up. I like it.

It was really important for me to make that first road trip with the team down to Orlando. In the four games I played last year, I think a lot of the guys bought into my style of playing hard and just going out there and working hard. Throughout training camp I've just been showing the organization and the guys on this team that I'm committed to what we're doing here.

By practicing with them in spite of my injury and traveling with them, I'm trying to lead by example. I'm not necessarily a guy who's going to go out there and yell and fuss all the time, but a guy who leads with his actions. That's the guy that I want to be for this team.

It's something different, but not exactly something I'm not used to. For anyone that kept up with me when I was at Wake Forest, leading was something I had to do there as well.

When Skip Prosser came there, he had a meeting with me and told me that I was going to have to be a leader on that team. I was only a junior at the time and I had five seniors ahead of me and he was already letting me know what I had to do.

That conversation with him will always be something I look back on.

He sat me down in his office and kept telling me how I had to be a leader, whether it was by talking, or just leading by example. He said, “YOU'RE GONNA HAVE TO BE OUR LEADER,” all caps. I understood he meant business with that. In order for me to be successful, I was going to have to speak up.

When I came in here to Washington, I knew I was in a similar situation. No one said it as directly as Skip did that day, but I also knew myself that, if I want to be successful here, if I want this team to make the playoffs, if I wanted every single guy in here to learn something from me, I was going to have to speak up.

How to be a leader is one thing I learned from Skip and that's probably one of the things I miss most from him. That is my guy still, to this day, no matter what and I miss him. He taught me a lot and I want to pass that along to these guys. I took the challenge from him and it was a success my senior year, so I know I can do it. It's just a matter of people buying into it.

It's happening, slowly but surely. I talk to Dray and John a lot. I'm in their ear because I don't want them to think just because I'm not playing, I can't say anything. When I come back, I am going to be a big part of this team, so I have to speak up now.

I'm adjusting to life in D.C. pretty well.

I'm living in an apartment, or penthouse as they call it here in the District. Being from the South I'm more used to square footage and stuff so it's a little bit different in terms of the living space. But the overall experience has been nice. The people have treated me well, a lot of people have told me how excited they are for me to come back and that makes me feel good.

I made sure I made my place feel homey, got some throw rugs and put some pictures on the walls. I feel like I'm part of this team, part of this franchise and part of this city and that's how I want to treat it. The fan support is great. It might be the capital of our country, but it's also a sports town. They love their sports here and I know these fans are going to have our back no matter what.

I love that there's always something going on here. Whether it is President Obama speaking somewhere or a night out on the town, there's always something going on.

I haven't hit up many restaurants yet because I have family in the area so they're usually cooking up a home-cooked meal for me. That helps out a lot. Eventually I will start getting to know the local food scene though. One thing I have experienced is the Chicken and Mambo sauce. That's a D.C. thing and a lot of people don't know too much about that outside of this area. It's pretty interesting to have a different kind of sauce like that. I like it.

I've done a little bit of exploring the sights, though not too much as of yet. I went down to the National Harbor in Baltimore. That's a real nice area off the water. I'm the type of guy that loves nice scenery and looking out into nature. This area fits the bill. A lot of water, a lot of bridges, very scenic, it's right up my alley.

Throughout my whole life, the thing that has helped to keep me grounded, helped me to get through some pretty stuff times, was knowing I had a family that supported me 100 percent.

My grandmother raised her kids and my mom raised my brother and me all the way until she met my stepdad when I was 11. It takes a strong woman to do that and a grandparent to do that. Both my grandparents stayed on me and made sure that if I went off on the wrong path they were gonna kick my butt back on the right path. That's who I owe all this to, along with Skip and God, is my mom and grandmother.

For a while, I was pretty much the man of the house and I think that also taught me about being a leader. A lot of responsibility was put on me, even when my mom got married. They had to work long hours and I was there, taking care of my brother and little sister. It taught me a lot of values, a lot of morals about things. It's all lessons that I can carry over into basketball.

Mom was able to come to our game in Orlando last week because she lives in Kissimmee, which is nearby. She moved there my second year in the league and has been there ever since. She loves it there, but she wants to move to Dallas because that's where her grandkids are.

She has always told me to be myself no matter what. People are going to say what they want to say, do what they want to do, but at the end of the day only one person can judge you and that's the man upstairs. She told me to just go out there and whatever I did, just to have fun with it.

Having a support system like that helps a lot. These people are the ones that have stuck with me through thick and thin. They know that this is a tough time for me, but they see me and they constantly remind me that, when I was hurt with the ankle, I was depressed, but I came back. Now, ever since I've had the knee surgery, I've been fine, if I can work my way back from the ankle and the wrist surgery, I know I can get through this.

All I've been doing is going hard and getting results back, which is a good thing. In the meantime, watch out for John Wall, Dray Blatche and the whole team. Big things are coming in Washington. 












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