The Rockets Daily – September 23, 2013

Surprises – Jeremy Lin was on the “Ian O’Connor Show” on ESPN Radio on Sunday morning. He talked about Dwight, Hakeem, and the postseason. Everything he said was interesting, but just one thing was shocking:

“One thing that people don’t really see, [Howard] can really shoot free throws,” Lin said. “When we were shooting, he was shooting really, really well. And I think for him it’s just a matter of getting more comfortable in a game. It’s definitely there. Sometimes you’ll see players who might not be able to shoot the free throw that, well, you can understand. … But he can really shoot, and that’s something that really caught me by surprise.”

Which leads me to the next installment in our ongoing series on Dwight Howard…

What To Expect When You’re Expecting – Unlike some former Rockets, and unlike the man to whom he is relentlessly compared, Dwight Howard’s free throw shooting form is not really cringe-inducing. In fact, it was revealed earlier this year on Ball Don’t Lie that he shoots 80 percent in practice:

So, does this information illuminate why Howard struggles from the line in games? Not necessarily, although it does suggest that a significant difference in free-throw shooting between practices and games isn’t rare for an NBA player. While Howard’s gap is the most egregious given his large sample size, every single player on the Lakers shoots worse in games than in practice. On top of that, no one converts less than 80 percent of his attempts in practice.

It’s hard to say if this is good news or bad. The good news is, as writer Eric Freeman points out, that Howard is already diligent in trying to improve:

It also shows that casual criticism of Howard’s shooting might be unfounded. It’s typical for basketball fans to claim that their own free-throw shooting suggests that NBA players can easily shoot better percentages than they do. However, if fans find that they shoot 80 percent during their own casual moments, then it’s also no different than what the professionals do in their own free time. These athletes already do exactly what their critics claim they should be able to achieve without a problem.

The bad news is that such a huge drop off during games could be a psychological hang up–the yips, if you will. If the solution to Howard’s free throw shooting was just time in the gym, then I have no doubt the problem would be solved by now. One needs look no further than Howard’s colossal shoulders to see his commitment to arduous training. I doubt that it’s coincidence that Howard’s lowest free throw shooting numbers have coincided with the times of greatest uncertainty and dissatisfaction with his circumstances. Hopefully the move to Houston helps, but it’s possible that he will feel the pressure to perform more keenly than ever, and his shooting may suffer until he can start having fun again.

Dream Shaken – Hakeem Olajuwon has unveiled his own line of Dream Shake shoes. I don’t know if the shoes are any good, but I do love me some Vibram soles, and as Olajuwon told FOX 26 in Houston, his shoes have them:

“First of all I went to Vibram, that is the Italian company that makes the sole,” Olajuwon said. They are the greatest sole company in the world.

“The sole of the shoe is the key to the whole shoe. That’s your base. That’s why Vibram put their logo in the bottom of the shoes to prove that you have the right sole.”

The shoes retail for $185 dollars, which makes me sad. This was the athlete who once endorsed $35 sneakers after saying, “How can a poor working mother with three boys buy Nikes or Reeboks that cost $120?…She can’t. So kids steal these shoes from stores and from other kids. Sometimes they kill for them.”
If Olajuwon’s clothing business is a success, then I’ll be happy for him, but it was his boldness to follow his moral compass–not his business sense–that made him an admirable man. I hope that Dream is still alive.
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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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