Dwight Howard’s arrival in Houston signals the arrival of one of the most dominant players in basketball, along with one of the most polarizing personalities in sports. Here at Red94, we are embracing the drama of Superman’s first season as a Rocket with a weekly column: “DwightLife.”
The win over the Spurs showcased the good, the bad, and the ugly parts of Dwight Howard’s post play.
First, the good. Howard made it clear in the opening moments of the game that Tim Duncan couldn’t handle him in the post by himself. Here Howard gets the ball right where he likes it–on the right block.
He takes a few strong dribbles toward the middle, fakes back toward the baseline, spins back to the middle and lofts in a skyhook that hits nothing but net.
The next time Howard posts up, Tim Duncan tries to front him.
Howard catches the ball with ample space to make a move to the basket. He gets right underneath the basket, gets fouled, and inexplicably misses the bunny layup.
He still gets a point at the line, and by now the damage to the Spurs defense is done. Tim Duncan, one of the greatest help defenders of all time, now has to direct almost all of his attention toward containing Howard, and San Antonio is going to have to send a double team and leave a shooter every time Howard gets the ball in the post. However, this leads us to the “bad.”
Since the double team is assured, Howard will need to pass out of a few of them. Right after Howard’s first successful post up against Duncan, Houston goes to him again. This time, when Howard makes his move towards the middle, Kawhi Leonard goes for the strip with his go-go-gadget arms.
Howard recovers the ball, but when he tries to pass to Harden, whom Leonard has sagged off of, the go-go-gadget arms strike again.
Leonard steals the pass. Howard’s presence near the basket still creates space for shooters even when he isn’t touching the ball, but if there’s anything Dwight needs to learn from Hakeem, it’s how to react to multiple defenders coming at him at once.
Now, for the ugly.
In the fourth quarter, when the Rockets desperately needed a bucket, they went to Howard on the right block against Tiago Splitter. This should have been an automatic two points.
Instead, Splitter plays Dwight Howard, Dwight Howard’s elbows, and the referees like a fiddle. As Howard turns to spin baseline for a hook shot, Spitter crow-hops over into the path of Howard’s enormous elbows, and flops.
Howard gets called for a charge on this exact play once every couple games, and it’s one of the most infuriating, anti-basketball calls in the NBA. He’s not lowering his shoulder. He has both hands on the ball, and he’s not even holding his elbows very wide. It’s just physically impossible for Dwight to turn and face the basket with the ball in his hands without his elbows swinging around. I might add that a left elbow to the defender’s face was exactly what made the most unstoppable shot by the most unstoppable scorer of all time, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Do you think a whistle blew when this shot was taken?
No call gets Dwight out of his rhythm more than the bogus elbow-charge, because it’s a call that basically makes it a foul for him to face up and shoot a shot. It’s also the ugliest part of Howard’s game, because just when we think we’re going to see a great athlete do athletic things, we instead hear a whistle blow and watch his face fill with impotent rage. One solution would be for Howard to develop a fadeaway. A better solution would be for the league to just require defenders to defend Dwight Howard instead of jumping into his elbows.
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