Instead of throwing all the responsibility & blame on Dwight Howard like his previous team did, the Houston Rockets seem genuinely interested in helping their newly acquired center become all the he can be, giving him Hakeem Olajuwon and head coach Kevin McHale as his teachers in an attempt to improve his low post game and overall ability on offense.
The criticism of Dwight Howard for most of his career is that he leans too much on his athletic ability instead of developing moves in the post. While his numbers as a low post players aren’t as bad as some might think they are, there’s more to this game than statistics. Howard often looks awkward when he holds on to the ball a bit too much in the post, and when it comes to creating points on his own without simply dunking or making the most of an offensive rebound, it’s easy to see how much he struggles.
Howard has been the most dominant defensive presence in the NBA for the last four or five seasons. While LeBron James can shut down perimeter players and take on point guards and power forwards, at his best, Howard is unrivaled in his impact on the way teams have to change their shots when they face him. He didn’t win the defensive player of the year award three times in a row for nothing, and his rebounding and blocking obviously help that cause as well.
But when the Rockets said they’re bringing in Olajuwon to work with their centers, it was obvious they weren’t planning on focusing all this tutoring on Omer Asik alone. Howard has the strength and the speed, but his footwork and limited arsenal of moves make him rather predictable, and not that difficult to stop for certain teams with the right kind of defensive personnel to stop Howard.
Howard didn’t work as hard when he was signed by the Lakers. It wasn’t just about the team’s effort in him – Howard was coming off back surgery and probably could have stayed a while longer on the treatment table instead of starting the season on time. The same happened with his shoulder injury, which he was kind of forced back from by Kobe Bryant and the rest of the team through the media.
Last season’s Howard was the best center in the NBA, which was an automatic pick in previous seasons. Not liking some of your teammates and the situation you’re in obviously helped Howard do less than expected of him, but it seems those days are gone in Houston. He still has a very dominant guard like James Harden to deal with, but the early indications from all sides seem to be very positive, and if Howard does pick up a few things from the two Hall of Fame big men, there’s a good chance we won’t have to wait very long to see the Houston Rockets show their contending form right from the start.