Shortly after inking a three-year, $70.5 million deal with the Hawks this summer, Dwight Howard played a prank on his poor mother.

Howard, 30, told his mom that he had just accepted a monster offer from the Utah Jazz and she broke down in tears.

The big fella’s homecoming is off to a promising start—he’s putting up averages of 15.2 points, 12.4 rebounds and 1.9 blocks for Atlanta (8-1):

“She started crying,” Howard said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show, laughing. “I said, ‘Mom, I’m sorry, I was just joking. I’m coming home to Atlanta.’ She was super happy. My family was super excited. This city has been great.”

 

“(Coach Mike Budenholzer) made it clear to everybody once we came in for our first day that there’s a lot of areas we needed to improve on as a team,” Howard said. “One was the defense as far as rebounding on the defensive end. Two was physicality. Three was just the intensity and the competitive spirit that we bring to the game. That’s something that he talked about from day one. He really put it on me to be the catalyst for that – to be the guy that’s going to rebound, block shots, defend and run the offense and then dominate the paint.”

 

“You can’t listen to what people say,” Howard said. “I think that kind of messed with my head for a couple years, when people were saying, ‘He doesn’t take the game seriously. He’s got to stop smiling, and you got to compete.’ Back in Orlando, I smiled and I still competed every single night. I don’t think there’s nothing wrong with enjoying this game. This is my 13th season. It goes by fast. I remember coming into the league, and 12 years have already gone by. You got to have fun and enjoy it. When I don’t enjoy the game, when I’m not being myself and having fun, then I’m not productive. There’s a fine line, but I think the best thing to do is enjoy this game because you can never get these moments back. Now the games go by so fast, the years go by so fast, that you want to enjoy it while you can.”

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