Howard eager for ‘fresh start’ in return to Lakers

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Dwight Howard returned to the Los Angeles Lakers this summer in one of the more surprising moves in the NBA, but the 33-year-old center says he is grateful for a second chance with the franchise.

Howard played one season with the Lakers – the turbulent 2012-13 campaign marked by the death of long-time owner Jerry Buss and the firing of head coach Mike Brown after five games – before leaving the organization to sign with the Houston Rockets as a free agent, a move that didn’t sit well with many Lakers fans.

“I never had any ill will toward any of the fans here in L.A.,” Howard told the media in a conference call on Wednesday. “I loved this city from the first moment I’ve been here and started playing in the NBA.

“It was never nothing against anybody here (on) the team or anything like that, it was just a decision I made. I love this city. I love playing in L.A. I’m back here, so none of that stuff in the past even really matters to me anymore. I think we all have a fresh start.”

After going through problems “mentally, physically and spiritually” away from the court this offseason, Howard says he is focused on the season to come, and has already been in conversation with his new teammates, including Anthony Davis, Rajon Rondo, and JaVale McGee.

“Everybody here wants to win, and I want to win, too,” Howard said. “It wasn’t about selling myself. It was just letting them know everything I’m about and what we’re trying to accomplish.”

Howard, an eight-time All-Star, has averaged 17.4 points and 12.6 rebounds per game in 1,044 appearances over 15 seasons.

Last season with the Washington Wizards, Howard averaged 12.8 points and 9.2 rebounds in nine games before his campaign ended in November because of back surgery. Howard now joins his fifth team in as many years.

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