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After more than a decade of extreme highs and lows in the NBA, the 30-year-old center signed a three-year, $70.5 million contract to get a fresh start where he grew up.

DAN PATRICK:Why were you so emotional at your introductory press conference with the Hawks?

DWIGHT HOWARD: [I was] having flashbacks of training at the gym [William Walker Recreation Center] where we had the press conference; seeing my family and all the people that I grew up with and knowing that I'm now playing for my hometown team. A lot of things were running through my mind.

DP:You said that you had lost confidence over the past few years. How did that happen?

DH: Being in a situation [in Houston] where I wasn't involved in a lot of what was going on around me with the team. Sometimes as a player, that can affect you. I've been very effective in the NBA, but then to go from that to basically feeling like I wasn't worth too much.... I was in a bad phase. I'm out of it now. I'm excited about what's going to happen next.

DP:Were you told something different about what your role was going to be with the Rockets before signing [in 2013]?

DH: Yeah. I was being told a lot of different things. It just didn't happen the way I thought it would. I can't go back in the past and get that time back. I just have to leave that behind me. It did produce a lot of patience on my part. I think it was good that [my time in Houston] happened because it gave me fire and woke something up in me for the next years of my career.

DP:Why did you switch numbers?

DH: I've had 12 my whole life. I just felt like I needed a change. I wanted to come in with a different mentality. The number 8 has a lot of great meanings. The ones that stood out to me the most were a new beginning and a new life. My mom lost seven kids [through miscarriages]. I was the eighth one.

DP:What did your mother say?

DH: The first thing she said was the same thing everybody said: "You know, Kobe wore number 8." But once I explained to her the meaning of it, she was all in. She said she loved it.

DP:Tougher to play with, Kobe Bryant or James Harden?

DH: Both of those guys are great competitors. I just think the timing was off for all of us. You know we were all on different paths in our careers. Kobe was at the tail end of his, and James is on the rise.

DP:Oh, that's a veteran's answer. Come on. Who's tougher to play with?

DH:[Laughs.] Well, I can't really say, man. I don't want to stir up anything. I think both of those guys are great players. And you know, despite what people say, me and Kobe didn't have one of those bad relationships.



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