What To Expect When You’re Expecting – (Note: It’s a long time until the Dwight-led Rockets squeeze out into the light of their first regular season. To fill some of that time, it’s worth taking a look back at some past articles of the travails and triumphs of Dwight that fans should prepare for going forward. This may be the first of several entries.)
For the most part, being the most dominant player at your position is great. Dwight just got about 88 million reasons proving that point. But there is one huge downside of being a powerful big man: people beat the ever-loving tar out of you. It’s easy to forget, but Howard’s shoulder injury didn’t come from natural wear-and-tear. From USA Today, February 4, 2013:
Howard may be the strongest, most physically gifted player in the NBA, but that only allows teams to defend him harder. He’s not quite the immovable force of Shaquille O’Neal, but he similarly deals with overt aggression from defenders.
Hack-a-Dwight isn’t just about daring the big man to hit free throws–for some teams it’s about wearing him down. Howard has complained about this issue for years, but there is some hope that he could get a reprieve next season. First, the media and the league are more fixated on safety than ever because of the spillover effect of concussion concerns in football. Second, the King brought the issue to the forefront during the playoffs after the Bulls started wrapping him up instead of playing defense. Third, and most importantly, one of the rule changes for next year could be a big help:
During the review of any instant replay situation to permit the officials to assess the appropriate penalties of any unsportsmanlike and unnecessary acts (e.g. flagrant fouls) that are observed during the instant replay reviews.
It may be that Houston will benefit from a season in which the world was deprived of Russell Westbrook and Derrick Rose during the playoffs, Howard’s shoulder was injured from repeated abuse, and Kirk Hinrich was able to slow down the league’s best player by breaking the rules. Maybe ESPN’s Hoopidea actually made an impact. The more the league concerns itself with clean play, the more Dwight Howard can thrive.
Center Central – Hakeem Olajuwon, Ralph Sampson, Yao Ming and Dwight all sat down to discuss with the Houston Chronicle what it means to play the 5. There was some serious basketball Kabbalah going on. But here’s a fun game: without clicking on the link try to guess who said what:
A. “We are the last people to see things on the court. We are the centerpiece. We hold everybody together. Everybody else looks at the point guards, the two guards, the flashy things. But being a center, you really are the focal point. Everything goes through the center. Defensively, offensively, you go through the center and it makes everybody’s life easier. It seems like it is going away, but I think it is going to come back. And when it does, teams are going to be very unstoppable if they have those centers. To be a great center, you have to dominate both ends of the floor.”
B. “You impact the game. When you walk on the game, you are the center. Everything goes through you to the basket. Every position depends on the center. They know they have the center with them, the shot-blocking. On the scouting report, locate the shot-blocker. Every position counts on you. That is the basic role of the center. In basketball, the coach wants you to keep your hands up. What does that mean? Just by doing this, you are affecting the game. Not jumping.”
C. “I just felt that blocking shots was something I would naturally do just by putting my hands up. The blocked shot is not just the way to defend our rim. It’s also a way to shock people, to destroy our opponents’ confidence.”
D. “You play organized ball, the coach designs the play to throw it in (to the post). You play a pickup game, you won’t get the ball.”
If you don’t want to read the article, scroll to the bottom of this post to see the answers. I have to confess that my favorite quote in the whole thing is that last one about pickup games. As a 6′ 2″ guy growing up in the age of Jordan and Iverson, many of my childhood basketball memories involve posting up and staring at a little guy crossing over, and over, and over, and over, and over…waiting for a pass that never came, and was never going to.
Odds and Ends – Air Brooks is back and Reggie Williams is official…Mike Miller is weighing his options and the Rockets are hanging in the mix…and in retrospect, it’s amazing how spot-on Jalen Rose was about how Dwight would make his decision:
(Answers: A. Howard, B. Hakeem, C. Yao, D. Hakeem)
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