Euro-stepology – I love everything about this clip from Clutchfans of Dwight Howard talking about the Euro-step. You’ve got one All-star marveling at another All-star’s skills, one of the league’s best defender’s talking about what is going through his mind as he tries to guard an unstoppable move, and some self-effacing video game-related humor. Love.
(Quick update: Howard was back at practice on Wednesday after sitting out Tuesday with a sore foot.)
In this article on the team’s site about Harden’s signature move, Jason Friedman quotes some of Howard’s analysis from the video, and Harden explains the backstory behind the move.
“I can’t remember when my first one was,” he admits. “I worked on it after college. I was just taking it for a joke in the beginning, just messing around with it in pick-up games or games with friends. Once I realized the move actually worked and I could be creative with it, then I just took it from there and tried to master it.
“To be honest, I didn’t even notice it until two years ago when I started getting to the free throw line a lot more and just started getting to the basket a lot easier – it just kind of opened my entire game up.”
Like penicillin and vulcanized rubber, James Harden’s Euro-step was one of history’s happy accidents.
Already Gone – B.J. Young has been cut. There are now 18 players in camp with 15 roster slots left. Jordan Henriquez may be next, but ailments that have kept Asik and Camby out of practice have given him a role in camp.
Looking Up – SI.com’s Rob Mahoney lists Houston as having one of 5 teams with improving defenses for the coming season. His reasoning follows what has been said before: the addition of Howard with Asik moving to the backup role gives the team a defensive anchor for all 48 minutes. He also provides a good reminder about Howard:
All of this gives Howard the benefit of the doubt as far as his health and defensive commitment, but I feel safe in betting on him to have a bounce-back year. Even in lesser form last season with the Lakers, Howard was capable of game-changing defense in the paint, but simply not to the same level we’ve come to expect. He should be positioned to better approximate that previous performance with a full offseason to rest his back and a consistent chance to develop on-court chemistry with his teammates.
Plenty of observers have said Howard looked a step slow last year. Many fans listen to that and hear “Dwight Howard is a defensive liability.” Not so. Being “a step slow” means Howard goes from being the most destructive defensive player of the past 15 years to being an elite defensive center.
Beating a Dead Horse – I’m not done defending Dwight Howard today against all real or imagined critics. Again at SI.com, Ben Golliver looks at the most intriguing roster battles of the year, and Houston’s big man situation comes up. So do the RAPM numbers for Howard and Asik, which I’m sure I had seen before but hadn’t really noticed:
Both players ranked in the top 20 for regularized adjusted plus-minus (RAPM) last season, and both were game-changing presences last season: Houston’s defensive efficiency was 5.7 points better with Asik on the court, and the Lakers were 6.1 points better with Howard in the lineup.
As bad as the Lakers were (compared to expectations) last season, RAPM reveals that Howard’s defense was really the only thing keeping them afloat. Although I’m not quite sure where Golliver gets his RAPM data–the only list I could find was here–the numbers I can see show Howard ranking sixth in the league with a +5.5, entirely on the strength of his defense. The next best Laker was Kobe Bryant, with a distant +3.2. Bryant predictably took all the credit for the Lakers’ strong end to the regular season because of his scoring, and Howard took all the blame for losing early in the season and in the playoffs. Their RAPMs reveal that Howard’s season in L.A. was the NBA equivalent of the Footprints in the Sand poem.
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