The keys to the Houston Rockets’ season: #2 – the Dwight Howard maintenance plan or, how i learned to stop worrying and embrace Clint Capela

Clint Capela was the greatest postseason revelation in Rockets history since Rudy T. invented the concept of the modern day stretch 4, sliding Robert Horry up into Chucky Brown’s spot in the lineup.  Okay, maybe not.  But anyone who watched this team last year, from the regular season into the playoffs was equally in shock over Capela’s insertion into the postseason rotation, and subsequent contributions.  Like, this guy played like a total of seven or eight minutes the entire year and then promptly went nuts in the real games, catching lobs and blocking shots like he didn’t know what was at stake.  Because, as Forrest Walker put it later, Capela literally didn’t know the difference or that there was any difference from the regular year.

But of course, the Dwight Howard maintenance plan is primarily about its namesake, Dwight Howard.  There isn’t really much left to debate over its efficacy: Howard came back fresh and dominant after sitting out over half the year last season.  And there isn’t much room for debate, probably, over its necessity: there’s nothing more important to Houston’s title hopes than a fresh and spry Dwight Howard; perhaps no force in the league more disruptive than a healthy Dwight Howard.  And there’s historical precedent: see The Dwyane Wade Maintenance Plan (2014-2015) (Heat rest Wade for half the year), also see The Tim Duncan Maintenance Plan (2010-2015) (Spurs rest Duncan for half the decade).  But would Howard be willing to comply?

Keeping Howard fresh, of course, doesn’t mean sitting him out half the year like what happened last season.  It just means limiting his minutes, and holding him out of back to backs, and meaningless affairs against the dregs of the league.  While Houston somehow got by with just Motiejunas in Howard’s absence last season, they should be well equipped this year due to the expected emergence of the aforementioned Capela.  In a perfect world, I’d split the two centers’ minutes evenly at 24 minutes a game each, giving Capela all the minutes he can handle in the back to backs.  That would keep Howard rested and fast-track Capela’s development for Houston’s future.  Thanks to Capela, Houston can enjoy 48 minutes of rim protection, and maybe as equally important, 48 minutes of the same offensive sets due to Capela’s surprising ability, displayed last postseason, to catch on the roll and finish at the rim.

What’s best for the team’s aspirations, though, may not be best for Howard’s pecuniary interests, particularly in what is essentially a contract year due to Howard’s ability to opt out of his contract.  2016 will be Howard’s last chance at a mega payday, just in time when half the league is expected to be armed with buckets of cash.  This is where self-awareness is key, at least when weighed against the temptations of personal ambition.  Can Dwight be convinced that rest is what’s best for his body, and that he can’t sustain the pounding of the regular 82-game gruel?  Or will he come into camp, motivated to prove he can still play big minutes and perform at a high level, like in his younger years?  I wouldn’t blame Dwight at all if the latter statement is an accurate description of his immediate frame of mind.  Who here could fault a man, one not yet even 30 years old, for wanting more and not settling in the prime of his earning potential?  If Howard’s recent past is any indication, it might be likely he’ll push once more before giving in – he convinced himself he could be effective in the post, when that wasn’t necessary, and really wasn’t good for his game or for his team.  But who here can even say with any degree of surety that a minutes restriction is what’s best for Dwight?  It may be best for the Rockets to hedge their bets, but what if he actually can stay healthy?

Another consequence of the Dwight Howard Maintenance Plan: less individual output, more uncertainty on the market, and greater leverage at the bargaining table in 2016 when Houston will need every penny in its purse, and by extension to keep Dwight for less, when it makes its push for Kevin Durant.

In the next installment, I’ll discuss the most important factor heading into the Rockets’ season: Ty Lawson

About the author: Rahat Huq is a lawyer in real life and the founder and editor-in-chief of

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The keys to the Houston Rockets’ season: #3 – the emergence of Donatas Motiejunas