Mavericks' Josh Howard getting an A for attitude

By EDDIE SEFKO / The Dallas Morning News

PHOENIX – Mark Cuban has a theory about Josh Howard’s play this season.
It doesn’t have anything to do with whether Howard is starting or
coming off the bench.

It has to do with attitude.

It is Cuban’s opinion that changes that Howard has gone through off the court have had an impact on his play.

"Josh has worked so hard to be a good teammate and fit in that it’s taken a little of the edge off of him," Cuban said Thursday. "We’ve asked him to kind of change who he is a little bit, be – for lack of a better word – invisible. People were talking about him off the court. And he’s done everything perfectly. He’s been the ultimate professional and that sometimes takes an edge off of what happens on the court.

"It’s like if they told me I couldn’t yell at refs at a basketball game. That would be a hard change. Josh has done the equivalent."

Howard’s game has perked up the last few games, and he’s coming to terms with his new role as the sixth man. He was the first player off the bench Thursday at Phoenix and he’s been more effective this season in that role.

As a starter, Howard has averaged 11.1 points and shot 31 percent. Off the bench, he has averaged 12.6 points and shot 42 percent.

The minutes haven’t been that different, either, whether he’s started or come off the bench.

"It’s a job," Howard said. "I just get in there and play as many minutes as I play. As long as I’m out here playing, I’m happy."

Howard has even managed to put inevitable trade speculation out of his mind. His name has come up, mostly in online conjecture, but Cuban said Thursday that "there are a lot of names being bantered about out there that we wouldn’t trade him for."

For now, Howard’s just fitting in and doing the new job that has been assigned to him. And the edge? That will come.

"With the new role and the [ankle] injury, he’s working to get all that back," Cuban said. "So that’s what he’s doing. You have to give him credit for how difficult that is. As he gets more comfortable with his new role, he’ll get that edge back."

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