The 2020 NBA Champions Los Angeles Lakers outclassed Denver Nuggets 4-1 in the Western Conference Finals back in September. However, a massive factor behind the Lakers domination was the contribution of Dwight Howard, as the center explains the method of getting into the mind of Nuggets stalwart Nikola Jokić.
While Lakers clinched their historic decade-awaited Larry O’Brien trophy this year, Dwight Howard has been getting some slack from the NBA scene for not aiding much behind the team’s triumph.
Nonetheless, the veteran, who just switched sides to the 76ers, revealed the ‘mental warfare’ he had inflicted on Jokić during the NBA contingent’s stay at the Disney bubble during the playoffs.
Sometimes the battle is won off the court: Dwight Howard reveals using psychological warfare to get the better of Nikola Jokić
Speaking to Etan Thomas on “The Rematch” podcast, Dwight Howard outlined how he was trying to get into the Serbian’s head at the Walt Disney World.
“Well, the crazy part about it is that we were all staying in the same hotel,” Howard recalled, “For me, I just felt like it was mental warfare and I wanted to get in his head in any way possible.”
For Howard, the battle with his opposition center was off the court and in the meal rooms.
“So, their meal room was actually across the hallway from our meal room. So, we saw them every day and I would go in there and I would speak to everybody. And every time I saw the Joker, I would be like, ‘You ready for the game tonight? You ready for tonight?’” added Howard.
“Yeah. I was just trying to get in his head because I think he’s a really good player and sometimes the battle is won off the court. That was the biggest thing; I just wanted to get in his head,” the 34-year-old went on, “I knew he was a key for them to win the championship and he got them there. So, my thing was to be physical with him. Get in his head and push him around a little bit.”
Following a word from Lakers head coach Frank Vogel after the 2nd conference finals match, Howard had taken a pause from his mental toil on the Nuggets star. However, some amount of work was still left for Howard, who was glad about how this unique task had played out for the benefit of his team at the end.
Howard continued, “Every time I stood up on the bench, he was looking over there; every time he got ready to go into the game, I would run to the scorer’s table just to tell him, ‘Hey, every time you get in, I’m right here with you.’ And it worked out great for our team and also myself.”
“It was very tough because that was a different role for me, so I’m glad I had the opportunity to learn from that and it worked out well,” concluded Howard.