DallasBasketball.com has had two opportunities to visit with Josh Howard on his visits to Frisco as a member of the D-League Austin Toros. 'It’s the card that’s dealt and I love playing cards,' Josh says pleasantly. 'So I’m going to go ahead and play these hands.' It's Spurs-at-Mavs tonight, but it's Spurs D-Leaguer J-Ho who gets a moment back in the spotlight here.
As someone who has played 10 seasons in the NBA, Josh Howard could see his current gig in the NBA Development League as a demotion. However, that’s not how he views playing for the D-League’s Austin Toros.
Howard — the former Glenn and Wake Forest star — joined the Toros in late October; he is averaging 13.9 points and 4.8 rebounds per game.
“It’s been a pretty good one,” Howard, 33, said of his experience with Austin while in DFW recently to play against the Mavs' D-League club, the Texas Legends. “(I’m) glad to be out playing ball again, showing people that I can play again. (It’s) also a humbling experience, my first time playing in the D-League.
“It’s the card that’s dealt and I love playing cards — so I’m going to go ahead and play these hands.”
His last stint in the NBA came nearly a year ago when he played 11 games for Minnesota before suffering his second ACL injury in two years last December; Howard, a 6-7 forward, was released six days later.
On October 25, Howard -- of course a foundation piece on the Dallas Mavericks' run of 50-win seasons and a 2006 NBA Finals berth -- signed with San Antonio but was released one day later. And when asked why he hasn’t garnered much interest from NBA teams since last year, he knows exactly why.
“I had two ACL surgeries along with a scope, so teams were scared,” he said. “They probably think something’s going to happen again, but I’ve taken every step, every measure to show them I can get back out there. So it’s just a matter of them taking a chance with me.”
Less than a week after being released by San Antonio, Howard landed in Austin, a D-League franchise affiliated with and owned by the Spurs. With San Antonio long considered one of the NBA’s model organizations, Howard is definitely glad to have landed in such a great situation.
“(Spurs coach Gregg Popovich) has always given me a smack on the butt, a nice smile or something even though he knew I was trying to beat them,” he said. “But it’s always been a great relationship. Grandma always taught me never to burn my bridges and that’s one thing I took from it. I’m just very, very fortunate to be with the Austin Toros.”
Ken McDonald, the Toros’ head coach, realizes how fortunate he is to have a player with Howard’s experience on his roster. McDonald said he has been impressed with Howard’s play and his attitude.
“He’s embracing just the opportunity,” McDonald said. “He’s just had a great approach. I didn’t know Josh before this, but every day it’s been a lot of fun to watch him come in.
“Training camp, he had the most energy against young guys trying to make a name for themselves. If anybody could be not excited about training camp, it could be a guy like Josh Howard. But he came in with just a great approach and I appreciate that about him.”
Howard isn’t the oldest player on the Toros. That honor belongs to Ronald Murray, 34, an eight-year NBA veteran. But being able to pass along much of the sage advice he’s received along the way to his new teammates is something Howard relishes.
“It’s fun; it makes me realize that I’ve actually experienced a lot and that people look at me as a role model, a figure that they can come to and ask questions of,” Howard said. “It makes me think a lot of myself and it makes me think that my kids have a great father that they can also look up to. That’s a good thing to take right there.”
Of course, the ultimate goal for Howard is to get back on an NBA roster.
“I just need to do what I do to will my team to win,” Howard said. “That’s my nature. I’ve got a lot still to give to this game. I’m just looking forward to getting that opportunity again, and that’s that.”
This story appears courtesy of The Winston-Salem Journal.