ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) -Dwight Howard has been brushing up on his Chinese.
He can already say ``hello'' and ``I love you.'' Soon, he and his Olympic teammates hope, the All-Star center this summer will add ``gold'' to that list.
``Everybody wants to see us win, and they're counting on us to win,'' Howard said Tuesday, preparing for the men's basketball training camp in Las Vegas next week before the team heads to Beijing. ``We've really got to be focused over there, and we've really got to keep a level head and stay humble. I think that's the biggest thing, since I started playing with the USA team three years ago, it's making sure all of us stay humble.''
Howard also said he's healthy and ready to go. He was held out of practice late last month with a stress fracture to the sternum, an injury he suffered in the Orlando Magic's five-game playoff loss to the Detroit Pistons.
``I tried to play as much as I could through the pain in the playoffs,'' he said. ``I really didn't know anything about it until after the playoffs, that I injured it.
``I got sandwiched - my shoulders went in and it popped,'' Howard said. ``It wasn't a good feeling. But I'm happy to be completely healed and ready to go.''
Howard, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Jason Kidd started for a team that went unbeaten in the Olympic qualifying tournament last year. But he is the only true center on the 12-man roster trying to redeem the United States after a bronze medal disappointment in 2004, when Argentina won the gold.
It was the first time America failed to win in basketball since the country began using pro players in the 1992 Olympics - and only the fourth time in history. The roster was full of NBA superstars who could fill a highlight reel but never put it together as a team, something Howard said coach Mike Krzyzewski has consistently warned this team about.
``The biggest thing is respecting the other team. Everybody has put us on a pedestal, and sometimes people or teams can get too confident and they end up losing,'' Howard said. ``We know what we're playing for. We're playing for, one, respect around the world, and also we're playing to get the USA back on top.''
Howard, entering his fifth pro season at age 22 after getting drafted out of high school in 2004, barely remembers the original Dream Team. He was only 6 years old when Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and company enjoyed a barely competitive romp to the gold. He had a Wheaties box commemorating the victory, but as a kid pictured himself on the podium as a sprinter or relay runner.
Instead, it will be as the post anchor of the country's most celebrated and famous Olympic athletes.
``Winning the world championship for the USA team is for everybody in America,'' Howard said. ``It's not just you taking it back home and saying, 'I got a gold medal.' It's 'We got a gold medal. We all did it together.'''
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