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Dwight Howard spoke to reporters Saturday about what he's learned from Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash:
"From watching Steve and Kobe and the rest of [the veterans], just how they come in every day with the same mentality. I've always worked hard, but these guys just stick with the routine," Howard said when asked where he feels he's matured most this season from a basketball standpoint. (Howard pointed as well to some personal issues off the floor, which he declined to discuss.)
Asked if his perception of Kobe has changed over the last month or so, Howard said no.
"Not at all. Me and Kobe have been cool for years. We've talked. He told me what he did when he had problems. I see it for myself now. It's not just something that we've talked about. When we talked on the phone, he was always saying "I get in the gym and shoot 5,000 shots" or whatever it may be, so to see it shows me how dedicated he is."
The dedication pays off not just in physical improvement, but mental, Howard said.
"I always tell him, 'I'm afraid to miss. When I get out there, I don't want to miss, and I end up missing.' And he was like: 'You know what? Shoot 1,000 jumpshots a day. You're going to miss a lot of those shots. But that's OK. Because you're teaching yourself it's OK to miss.'
"Now I see it. He gets out there and he might miss a couple 3s, but then he'll make nine in a row. You see that and it just kind of gives you more inspiration."
Howard said mentally, he made a shift at the All-Star break.
"I stayed in the hotel and just thought about the first half of the season and what I could do better. How I could be better for our team," he said. "I just told myself, 'I'm going to commit myself to being better for the second half of the season.'"
Since, he's changed his diet (no sugar, meals consisting basically of "Whole Foods. Whatever they got on the menu."), gained a greater willingness to do what's asked of him, even outside his comfort zone, and -- this really shouldn't be overlooked -- is feeling better, physically following offseason back surgery.
(There are a bunch of stories on what Dwight said yesterday, so check out: http://espn.go.com/los-angeles/nba/story/_/id/9035343/dwight-howard-los-angeles-lakers-rededicates-self-assist-kobe-bryant
and: http://www.latimes.com/sports/lakersnow/la-sp-ln-howard-seeing-bryant-influence-20130309,0,5524524.story for starters