The center has an opt-out clause for the final year of his contract, coming up in 2016-17.
So when the big man filled in for Shaquille O'Neal on Inside the NBA on Tuesday night, the TNT crew rightfully grilled Howard regarding his big offseason decision.
(Shaq and host Ernie Johnson were at the Sports Emmys.)
— SHAQ (@SHAQ) May 11, 2016
But before they could even get to Howard's future, analyst Charles Barkley had a very direct question for him that somehow took a minute and a half to ask: "Why do you think people don't like you?"
His answer, like most of his responses on Tuesday, seemed pretty damn genuine.
Dwight Howard on Inside the NBA addressing criticism he has faced during his career https://t.co/96hzHdvKri
— TurnerSportsPR (@TurnerSportsPR) May 11, 2016
“People have seen the success I had in Orlando and they see me now, and they're probably like, 'Man, what's the difference?'" Howard said. "I think I was very likable in Orlando, and the way that situation ended, I think people felt as though I’m just this bad guy—I'm all about myself, I'm a diva, I'm stuck on being 'Dwight Howard,' this famous basketball player. So a lot of people say, 'You know what? We don't like this guy,' and I hear that a lot.
"It really hurts me, because my heart and my attitude towards the game has always been the same, and my drive has always been there, because I'll never forget the day I came in here and you told me I wasn't ever going to be good in the NBA. And I'll never forget the day Magic Johnson said I wasn't going to make it the NBA when I was in the 10th grade. And that stuff drives me every day to be one of the greatest players to play the game. So, to hear people say that, it pisses me off, because that's not who I am. I've never been a bad person. It's not like I want people to like me, because I know people are not always going to like me, but if you get to know me, I'm laid back. I love to have fun."
Chuck and fellow analyst Kenny Smith also passed down advice to the 30-year-old center.
"You have to be you," Smith said. "And if that's smiling, that's you. And if that's not smiling, that's you. Because then your talents, to me, will come out more."
Barkley told Dwight to do what everyone else already does—not listen to him (just kidding, Chuckster!).
"Never worry about what you hear on television," Barkley said. "Because the way this business works, when you were in Orlando and winning and smiling, we thought it was great. But if you're losing in Houston or L.A. and you're smiling, you're going to get killed."
Barkley also acknowledged how frustrating it must be to play with a ball-dominant guard like James Harden.
"I'm always interested in winning," Howard responded. "As a big, sometimes you want to feel a part of what's going on. I have to rely on my teammates in certain aspects to get the ball. There's been times I've been upset and I've taken myself out of games and situations. That's on me. I have to go and be a better player at that."
But when it came time to pry the big man's offseason plans out of him, the TNT guys didn't get very far.
"That part hasn't even crossed my mind," he assured them, (probably) lying.