ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) -Dwight Howard wants to be Superman not just one day a year.
Howard, the talented Orlando Magic center who wore a red cape and 'S' on his chest in winning the 2008 NBA Slam Dunk Competition, doesn't want to just be the NBA's best big man. He wants to be the best player.
The tools are there.
The 6-foot-10 Howard can bench press 225 pounds 25 times; has a 38-inch vertical leap; is the third-fastest player on the team and has 6.6 percent body fat and a 7-5 wingspan. Add to that instinct, court awareness and improving maturity.
``When they talk about most valuable players to their team, I can't think of one more valuable than him,'' Charlotte coach Larry Brown said.
only fueled more hunger.
``Got a gold medal now,'' Howard said. ``Time to win a championship.''
Said point guard Jameer Nelson, ``He's come back a lot more mature and he is holding us all to a standard now. He draws a lot of attention and we feed off of it.''
Howard, who wears specially-designed shoes that have Superman logos on the tongue and heel, dominates games, but he will need more help from his teammates. The Magic have a strong scoring frontline with Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu, but it remains to be seen if the offseason moves can strengthen the supporting cast.
The Magic lost guards Keyon Dooling, Carlos Arroya and scorer Maurice Evans. Nelson, who was averaging fewer than four assists a game before dishing seven against Memphis in the preseason finale, is a serviceable point guard. Free agent-signee Mickael Pietrus has been solid defensively, but hasn't yet brought the offense the Magic need from him. Pietrus is shooting only 36 percent and averaging 9.1 points a game
Then there is Howard's personal Kryptonite.
In the last few seasons, that drawback has been free throws and turnovers.
those things.''
Howard shot only 58.9 percent from the line last year - curiously shooting almost six percentage points better on the road. He also looked to dunk nearly every time he could, though now he's employing a jump hook more.
``I know that my bread and butter is in the blue ... can't get away from that,'' Howard said. ``But it's still about using my quickness to get around people. We'll play some great defensive teams and I'll have to do something more to get myself going to the basket. The biggest thing is getting to the free throw line and then knocking those shots down.''
Howard made 10 of his first 12 free throws this preseasons but is hovering around 60 percent. Van Gundy said that he expects Howard, with more concentration on mechanics, to shoot 75 percent this season.
``It's amazing, because he scares the (excrement) out of me,'' Atlanta coach Mike Woodson said. ``He's doing it with both hands, he's making his free throws now. C'mon man, that's tough when you've got a big guy that can defend the ball, score, make free throws and block shots and rebound. I mean, there's nothing he can't do right now.''
Among the things on Howard's to-do list is challenging the Boston Celtics, Cleveland Cavaliers and Pistons for the top spot in the East.
``This moment never comes for too many people like this,'' Howard said. ``Not many people win a championship. We have the right opportunity, the right players, the right coaching staff. We're in a great position to do that.''

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