Big Horse – Via Marc Stein, Kevin McHale has a new nickname for Dwight Howard:
Don’t think it’s going to sell many T-shirts, but Big Horse is how Rockets coach Kevin McHale is regularly referring to Howard.
And Dwight, for the record, seems to like it.
The way Howard tells it, Orlando teammates used to call him Barbaro early in his career in a tribute to the 2006 Kentucky Derby winner. So it’s not exactly new nickname ground.
Stein goes on to recount Howard’s explanation of his Superman moniker, an exchange which Rahat captured on video.
You’ve got to respect the Batman love.
X’s and O’s – While Kevin McHale isn’t often touted as a coach with a deep playbook, Jonas Iwanus at ClutchFans breaks down how the the Rockets employ a few variations on a devastatingly effective baseline out of bounds play to score (shout out to Rob Dover for the link).
Kobe Beef – In case you were still wondering, Antawn Jamison (via Scott Howard-Cooper at NBA.com) confirmed what we all knew, which is that Dwight and Kobe had beef:
“The writing’s on the wall,” Jamison said. “Whatever you say happened between the coaching staff, Kobe and Dwight – it was a combination of everything. Not understanding roles. Not being up front with roles. Our two superstars didn’t get along. Inside the organization as far as which coach to bring in. With that talent, that’s tough to deal with. But of course, championships and successful seasons don’t run because of what’s on the roster. You have to deal with injuries, you have to deal with certain situations that we just didn’t handle the situations at all.”+
Should this make us fret about Dwight? No active player has a longer and better documented track record of alienating teammates than Kobe Bean Bryant, so no.
Underrated – Tom Haberstroh (ESPN Insider) picked a Houston Rocket as the most underrated player of this season. And the winner is…Dwight.
Under the tutelage of Hakeem Olajuwon and Kevin McHale, Howard should be able to add a counter or two to his offensive repertoire, and his shortcomings on that end are ridiculously overblown. Even through the back issues, he has averaged more than 20 points per game over the past three seasons, having tallied almost 1,000 more points than the next best-scoring center over that time period. How does that make him a liability on that end? Get serious. If Howard plays up to his abilities, the Rockets won’t need to worry about his free throw shooting in crunch time. The Rockets will already have run away with the game by then.
In a way, Howard’s game is a microcosm of the Rockets’ season so far. The team has played three remarkably ugly games with periods of complete dysfunction on offense. Yet they are undefeated and have the second best point differential in the league at +10.7. That’s life with Dwight Howard, and it’s not so bad.