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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- The perception pains Dwight Howard. He doesnt think its fair or accurate that many consider him a bad teammate and an underachieving goofball who doesnt care enough about his craft to fully take advantage of his immense physical gifts.Howard, however, knew he needed to make major changes after a third consecutive awkward, disappointing ending to his tenure with a team. Over the course of the last year, he has changed agents, tightened and revamped his inner circle and left the Houston Rockets in his rear-view mirror while joining his hometown Atlanta Hawks.Howard even switched numbers, ditching the 12 he wore for the first dozen years of his career in favor of symbolic No. 8. The number means new beginnings, new life, Howard said. I wanted to get away from my old ways and stuff like that, so I changed my number. It has some significant meanings with my mom, some personal reasons. I just wanted to change it up.With Howard getting settled in with his fourth franchise, ESPN caught up with the eight-time All-Star after a preseason win Oct. 6 over the Memphis Grizzlies in the FedEx Forum.Q: When you say new beginnings, whats that mean?A: I changed up everything around me. I hold myself more accountable in certain situations. I try to be a better man, a better father, a better teammate. I know a lot of the stuff thats been said about me that I cant really control and has been false, but at the same time, I just want to show this city who I really am and show my teammates what kind of teammate I am. Theyve been great to me, and I think its a great situation for me to be in.Q: Youve been in the spotlight since you were an 18-year-old kid who was the No. 1 pick, and that spotlight has gotten brighter throughout the course of your career. You mentioned the perception of you. Why does that bother you? A: It has bothered me because I know who I am and what kind of teammate Ive always been. For certain things to be said, it really did bother me, but the only way to shut people up is just by winning and just playing basketball and not allowing that kind of stuff to really affect who I am away from the game.Q: Who is Dwight Howard?A: Im a fun person to be around, laid back, love to have fun. Ill joke all day, but once I get in the gym, Im going to work hard. Thats one thing I pride myself on is working hard in the weight room, working hard in practice, trying to become a better player. I hated that perception that I didnt work hard, that I really dont love the game. This game has brought me a lot of joy, brought me a lot of good things. Just that side of it has really affected me. I know you cant please everybody; you cant make everybody happy, but just getting that perception that I dont care about this game and what it brings is a lie.Q: Do you feel that you feel that youre not allowed to have fun, not allowed to smile, not allowed to be yourself? A: Yeah, a lot of times I do feel like that. When Im smiling, Im supposedly not taking the game seriously. When Im not smiling, then its like, He dont care. Hes just out there. When I was in Orlando and everything was going well and we were winning, even in L.A. when we won those games and stuff like that, me smiling didnt bother people. But like I said, you really cant please people. I know everybodys attention is on what Im doing on the floor. My job is to be the best teammate I can be, push these guys to the limit every day, make sure that Im being the right type of leader. Q: Youre a lovable personality when you smile and win, but when you smile and lose, youre a clown. A: Correct, but its OK. Stuff will change. Im on a great team, got a lot of great guys in this locker room, great coaching staff and theyre going to hold me accountable for everything. Its something I want to have. I want to be held accountable. I want my teammates and my coaches to push me to be the best that I can be. This is a great situation.Q: You mentioned changing things this summer. Whatd you change? A: Just things off the court, a lot of the stuff that was happening around me, just personal things. I tried to change that up and just really start over, get a clean slate. No offense to the people that I had around me, but I just wanted to start over, start fresh. Like I said, its a new beginning, so I wanted everything to be fresh. I didnt want to bring any old baggage or anything from my past to this organization. They believe in me, this city believes in me, so I just wanted to make sure that when Im out there on the court that Im free, that I can give this city and this team everything that Ive got.?Q: Im sure youve thought a lot about this. You go to Houston and James [Harden] is entering his prime, youre in your prime, your games seemed to be complementary. Why didnt that work?A: Well, sometimes things dont work like they should. Ive never had an issue with James. I wish him nothing but the best. I just think the timing of everything was a little bit different. Thats OK. All that stuff did was just mold me for this moment here, this organization, this team. Theyve asked me to be a leader. Its my job to come in here every night and provide physicality and the leadership that this team needs.?Q: This is a good situation for you. Youre home. Youre making money that 99.999999 percent of the world would ... A: [Interrupting] Its not even just the money part, but the fact that Im able to play at home, the fact that Im able to play for Coach [Mike Budenholzer], who has been nothing but unbelievable. The whole staff has been great. Just the team, just the whole atmosphere is something that Ive always prayed for and I always wanted, so Im very grateful.Q: Were you surprised there werent max offers on the table?A: Well, I knew all the situations that was going on. I really only looked into one place and that was the Hawks. I didnt go to other teams. As soon as free agency opened, I met with Coach Bud and [general manager Wes Wilcox]. After the meeting, I went back to my car and I was like, Man, this is where I want to be. I didnt need to meet with other teams. I didnt care about what offers were on the table. I wanted to be in Atlanta. I wanted to represent for this team.Q: Physically, how do you feel?A: My body feels great. I took five days off last summer and have been working out since then. I havent had any issues. I feel good. Playing 13 years is a long time, but I feel really good. Its not like Im [old]. Im just thankful. Before the game when the announcer said, In his 13th season ... it was kind of weird. Coming from an 18-year-old [when he was drafted], now Im 30, its a great situation.Q: Do you feel you can still be as dominant as youve been earlier in your career?A: No doubt, and theyre going to push me to be that player that I can be. Its going to happen. Brandon Guyer Jersey . Now tied for second in the league in shootout goals, the 24-year-old likes to see what the opposing goaltender has in store before he ultimately lands on a move. Kenny Lofton Jersey .S. Open champion Justin Rose birdied the first hole with a blind shot he hit to a foot of the pin, and he stayed in front Tuesday until he completed a 4-under 67 for a two-shot lead over Jason Dufner in PGA Grand Slam of Golf. http://www.indiansteamproshop.com/Indians-Josh-Tomlin-Kids-Jersey/ . -- The proud fathers huddled near the Dallas Stars dressing room, smiling, laughing and telling stories while wearing replica green sweaters of their sons team. Larry Doby Jersey . Jordan Lynch, the all-purpose Heisman Trophy finalist from Northern Illinois, failed to make it into that exclusive club. Lonnie Chisenhall Jersey . "I dont know that were close," said general manager Alex Anthopoulos. "I just think, right now, the acquisition cost just doesnt work for us right now. I dont know if I can quantify how far off or things like that that they might be but I would say we continue to have dialogue. VERMILLION, S.D. -- Sean McGuire found Joey Borsellino for a 2-yard touchdown pass on third-and-goal with 32 seconds left and Western Illinois battled back from a 31-14 halftime deficit to beat South Dakota 35-34 on Saturday.McGuires game-winner capped an 11-play, 80-yard drive that included a 28-yard completion to Jaelon Acklin on fourth-and-10.Leading 34-28, South Dakota was driving to ice the game when Trevor Bouma fumbled on third-and-goal from the 1 with 4:35 left, setting up the Leathernecks final possession.McGuire finished with 286 yards passing with two scores passing and another rushing.dddddddddddd Steve McShane added 112 yards rushing and a TD for Western Illinois (6-2, 3-2 Missouri Valley).Trailing 14-10, the Coyotes (4-4, 3-2) scored 21 unanswered points to take a 31-14 lead at the half. Chris Streveler found Dakarai Allen from 7-yards out, and then capped the run with a 1-yard TD plunge.Streveler finished with 373 yards passing, 102 rushing, and three total touchdowns. 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