Juwan Howard brings professionalism to star-studded Miami Heat

By Amy Shipley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 5, 2010; 12:09 AM

HURLBURT FIELD, FLA. - Miami Heat President Pat Riley said he would not speak to reporters during the team's opening week of training camp. Yet as soon as the name Juwan Howard was dangled, Riley broke his own gag order.

Seconds after declining to comment, Riley commented, and enthusiastically at that. He seemingly could not keep quiet about the former Washington Wizard and 17-year-veteran who accepted an NBA veteran's minimum deal to try to win his first championship with the Heat.

"He's a revelation," Riley said. "He looks like he's 22 years old again."

Then the Hall of Fame coach who led Magic Johnson, Patrick Ewing and other NBA greats during his coaching career, volunteered that Howard, 37, should have a place among the game's legends: "He might be one of the best professionals in the history of the game of basketball," Riley said.

In Miami's eyes, Howard's hyper-professionalism, solidly maintained skills, veteran smarts and impeccable reputation add significant value to a lineup figured to stumble only if egos collide or dissension infects the court. Shortly after Miami landed megastars LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in free agency this summer, Howard was summoned to be both a role model and a role player - playing behind Bosh and hometown Heat veteran Udonis Haslem at power forward.

"I feel great about my decision," Howard said. "It was a no-brainer, going to Miami."

As the Heat wrapped up a training session last week at a U.S. Air Force base near Fort Walton Beach, Howard finished among the team leaders in full-court sprints, beating many younger players to the end line. During the team's conditioning test days before camp opened, he stood out similarly, trouncing several young teammates, Haslem said.

"I work on my game just like a new rookie coming into the league," Howard said.

Howard's eyes widened when told of the high praise from Riley, and, seemingly embarrassed, he stumbled over an appropriate response. Yet he grew comfortable fast when asked why he turned down offers from his hometown Chicago Bulls, the Utah Jazz, and Portland Trail Blazers to start anew in Miami. As soon as Wade, Bosh and James signed with the Heat, Howard told his agent David Falk he wanted to be there, too.

"I have never won [a title] before, and that's always been my ultimate goal," Howard said. "This time I have a chance to get closer to one. Hopefully, my goal will come true."

Howard's arrival comes 14 years after the Heat nearly landed him as a burgeoning star entering the prime of his career, only to have his contract disallowed by the league. Back then, Riley hoped to pair Howard, whom Washington drafted in the first round of the 1994 draft, with former Georgetown center Alonzo Mourning.

Instead, Howard landed back in the District, where during seven seasons he made just one playoff appearance before being dealt to Dallas in an eight-player trade in 2001.

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