If there’s anyone that knows what it’s like to make a big-time deal with the Miami Heat only to be scorned by fans of his former team, it’s Juwan Howard.
Um … what?
Yeah, that was the reaction I had, too, though I suppose it’s technically correct. Back in 1996, Howard was a star free agent and appeared to have settled on a deal with the Heat that would pay him in the vicinity of $100 million over the course of seven years. Washington Bullets fans obviously did not appreciate Howard leaving them for another team. The only problem? Miami didn’t have enough cap room and the NBA nixed the deal and Howard wound up back in Washington with the first $100 million deal in NBA history.
If you’re like me, you probably had forgotten a lot of that. And you may also have forgotten that Howard is still in the league. He’s actually with the Heat now and says teammates LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh have faced unwarranted criticism.
Juwan Howard joined 790 the Ticket in Miami with the Dan LeBatard Show and Jon “Stugotz” Weiner to discuss the negative backlash his Heat team has faced, why it bothers him, whether it’s weighing on LeBron James, whether he understands how Cavs fans feel about LeBron’s departure and how many more years he thinks he can play.
On the negative backlash surrounding the Heat:
“Actually I’ve been surprised and a little unhappy with some of the attention that we’ve been getting. It hasn’t been positive. There’s been a lot of negativity. I feel, more importantly, bad for guys like LeBron, especially this early, and also D-Wade and Chris Bosh, too.”
On whether any particular criticism stands out:
“You talked about guys questioning their character. … I’ve been with these guys since the start of training camp and I’ve known all three of them for a while now and they’re all good guys and have big hearts and, more importantly, they’re very unselfish people. I think they’ve shown that through the process of signing their contracts. All of them took less money. Yeah, they’re all on the same team and they joined some forces … but I think people should applaud that.”
On whether the criticism seems to be wearing on LeBron James:
“I haven’t seen it wearing on him at all because he’s a very tough-minded, strong individual. He’s got a lot of mental toughness. He’s still been, of course, just working hard, staying focused, doing what we have to do, as a team, to get better. And I respect him for that. … This could wear on you. It could get very upsetting or, more importantly, it could be a huge distraction, but I haven’t seen that from him at all.”
On how many more years he thinks he can play:
“My body feels great, so I know I can definitely keep going. How long that will be, I don’t know.”
On whether he felt negative backlash when it appeared he was leaving Washington for Miami in 1996:
“Of course I did. There were a lot of unhappy people in the Washington, D.C., area that did not like me signing with Miami. But it’s a business and they didn’t look at it from the other side of the table. Teams will trade players around when they don’t have the leverage and you can be traded to a different city.”
On whether he understands how Cavaliers fans feel:
“Cavaliers fans, those are the only people I can understand being really upset. Of course, this is a hometown kid who played there for seven years, or eight, or whatever. He’s from that area and they feel like they lost their very own. … I can understand where they’re coming from and them being unhappy. But, burning the jersey and talking about Benedict Arnold and sellout, some of that stuff I disagree with.”