The Rockets Daily – August 14, 2013

The Mountaintop – Hakeem Olajuwon just posted a new video of one of his training sessions with Dwight Howard from 2011.

The subject is simple: teaching Howard to face up his man and hit a jumper. Within the first minute and a half, Hakeem has identified two problems with Dwight’s technique: he brings the ball too low as he faces up, and he fades on his jumper when he should go straight up and down. When this video was recorded, Howard was already the most dominant center in the league, and the Dream was still able to pick apart his technique in less than two minutes. Incredible.

On the one hand, it raises questions about Howard that his post game needed (and needs) such obvious improvement.  On the other, it speaks volumes about his desire to improve that he chose to go to a place where mentors could dissect his game and push him. Dwight traded faceless pressure from a demanding fanbase in L.A. for a more personal kind of pressure from NBA legends who have invested their time in him, expecting him to improve.

Solving OmerBrent Koremenos at Grantland has authored the most thorough analysis to date of Omer Asik’s fit with Dwight Howard. He points out some of the obvious stuff (Asik+Howard=Beastly Defense), but he makes two very interesting points with regard to the potential offense.

Howard’s preferred method of operation, post-ups, also shouldn’t be a problem. In the NBA, everything a team runs on offense essentially boils down to actions and alignments. The ideal alignment on any post-up is to have three 3-point threats stationed around the arc — roughly top of the key, opposite wing, and rim-extended in the opposite corner — while having one player in the opposite short corner who has prime real estate to battle for offensive rebounds.

In other words, Asik’s defender will be too busy keeping the Big O off the boards to help on Dwight. The problem, as Koremenos sees it, is for James Harden.

Being put in too many situations like this will take away Harden’s greatest strength — his ability to draw fouls. In general, a Howard-Asik frontcourt may limit Harden’s ability to attack so much that the dominant actions for that unit will be Howard post-ups and quick dribble handoffs after ball reversals. And how much good does an imposing defensive frontcourt do Houston if it marginalizes its best player?

This is a huge issue if McHale plans to start Harden, Asik and Howard. While I’m sure there will be times during the season when Harden will be happy to save his body and avoid attacking the rim, he’s still going to want his touches. The most positive outcome may be if McHale used the Howard-Asik pairing when Harden goes to the bench. Based on this article’s analysis, the two centers could keep up a passable offense for short stretches while playing terrifying defense.

As long as Asik is a Rocket, fans may have to live with two realities. The first is that the best players on the roster don’t fit nicely together like pieces in a puzzle. The second is that the team will have situational lineups with the ability to pummel mismatches like very few teams in the league.

Dream Speak – Olajuwon has taken his literary talents to ThePostGame on Yahoo Sports. This week he reflects on the importance of his summer workouts during college at Fonde Recreation Center in Houston:

It may have been summer, but class was in session whenever I played at Fonde. Not only were the top players there, but the games would attract a sizable and knowledgeable crowd. It took an impressive and unique display of athleticism to draw applause from the onlookers. The pressure was on.

At that time there was no better big man in the world than Moses Malone.

The 1979 NBA MVP (who would go on to win two more MVP awards), Malone was the best challenge I could have asked for. He didn’t go easy on me, and those post battles were some of the most significant of my career.

The closest modern analogy would be Andrew Wiggins showing up at Rucker Park to throwdown with Kevin Durant. If there was an NBA blogosphere, it would have been talking about this for a week. Sadly, there’s probably not even a dusty old VHS tape to record what might have been some of the greatest post-play showdowns ever.

I imagine anyone who witnessed these games tells stories like Rutger Hauer. Epic basketball lost in time. . . like tears in the rain.

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About the author: John Eby got on the Rockets bandwagon in 1994 and never got off. He is a public relations guy and recovering TV journalist living in South Carolina.

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