Skip to content

Dwight Howard made his choice for basketball reasons

Jul 5, 2013, 7:30 PM EDT

Dwight Howard can be a goofball. He savors having fun, joking around in the locker room, being a bit of a clown prince.

That can play poorly if you’re not winning and not always giving maximum effort on the court. That image has haunted Dwight Howard for a while now, especially after the awkwardly-handled exit from Orlando then a down year in Los Angeles.

One thing in sports quickly fixes reputations — winning.

If that was the priority, if this was purely a basketball decision, then Dwight Howard made the right call in choosing the Houston Rockets.

The Lakers, even with everyone back, were not contenders with an older Steve Nash and a hobbled Kobe Bryant. Yes, the Lakers have cap space going forward — the same pitch the Mavericks made — but the Rockets had the pieces to win in place now with Howard added. There was no risk about the future.

This Rockets team was good last season, winning 45 games, but was held back by a pedestrian defense. Dwight Howard patrolling the paint, blocking shots and grabbing rebounds can change everything on that end (if he is healthy and back to his old form). With him the Rockets become the top-10 defense they need to be contenders.

On offense, the Rockets could have the best pick-and-roll in basketball.

Despite all the talk about Howard’s post play — which is improved but still about athleticism and power not polished moves — what really sets him apart as a big man is his mobility.

Howard needs to do a lot of pick-and-roll with James Harden and Jeremy Lin, both who attack aggressively on that play.

Look at it this way: Howard shot 44 percent in the post last season, 49 percent the season before and 50.6 percent the season before that. When healthy he gets points on the block (and working with Kevin McHale, the Rockets coach and Celtics legend who had some of the best footwork of any big man ever should help that).

But as the roll man getting the ball back he shot 78 percent last season, 74 percent two seasons ago and 81.7 percent the season before that. Howard sets a huge pick and is so quick it is hard for the defense to react, when he gets the ball back he has room to attack and finish. Combine that with the aggressive play of Harden and Lin and you have a crazy weapon.

Let’s see how the Rockets round out their roster before we predict they can knock off the Thunder next year in the playoffs. (I, for one, don’t love the pairing of Howard and Josh Smith, I think it gives Smith the excuse to take too many ill-advised jump shots.)

A whole lot of Lakers fans seemed happy to let Howard go, but the Howard they see next season — healthy and happy — will look like a totally different player. Howard is a three-time Defensive Player of the Year, he uses that mobility to shut down pick-and-rolls (he can show out and recover better than any big in the league) and he comes from the weak side with authority to block shots.

For several years Rockets fans were wondering what GM Daryl Morey was doing, stockpiling assets and trying to find short-term contracts. This is what he was trying to do — have the pieces to make a Harden trade and the cap space to attract Howard to go with him.

He was putting together what should be one of the best one-two punches in the NBA. He was putting together a contender.

Which is why Howard chose them. For basketball reasons. To win.

Latest Posts
  1. Report: Talks between Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors break down

    Jul 1, 2015, 4:51 PM EDT

    Memphis Grizzlies v Golden State Warriors - Game Two Getty Images

    Even if another team signs him to an offer sheet, the Warriors will just match it.

  2. Report: LaMarcus Aldridge rules out Lakers in free agent decision

    Jul 1, 2015, 4:47 PM EDT

    LaMarcus Aldridge LaMarcus Aldridge

    Aldridge and Kobe Bryant didn’t quite click in their meeting.

  3. Report: Amir Johnson agrees to two-year, $24 million deal with Celtics

    Jul 1, 2015, 4:11 PM EDT

    Amir Johnson Amir Johnson

    Boston gets nice value on a short-term frontcourt upgrade.

  4. Report: Cavaliers, Tristan Thompson near five-year, $80 million contract

    Jul 1, 2015, 3:09 PM EDT

    2015 NBA Finals - Game Six Getty Images

    The road to the NBA Finals out of the East — and maybe to the Larry O’Brien trophy itself — goes through Cleveland.

  5. Alex Ajinca re-signs with Pelicans for four years, reported $20.5 million

    Jul 1, 2015, 2:28 PM EDT

    New Orleans Pelicans v Minnesota Timberwolves Getty Images

    The Pelicans were +10 per 48 minutes with an offensive rating of 111.9 (points per 100 possessions) when Anthony Davis and Ajinca were paired last season.

  6. Report: Raptors, DeMarre Carroll agree to four-year deal worth $60 million

    Jul 1, 2015, 12:29 PM EDT

    Nice get for Toronto, and a Hawks team that won 60 games is going to look very different next season.

  7. Report: Spurs reach deal to trade Tiago Splitter to Hawks, create cap space for LaMarcus Aldridge offer

    Jul 1, 2015, 12:03 PM EDT

    Tiago Splitter, LaMarcus Aldridge AP

    The Spurs can now offer Aldridge the chance to return to his native Texas and walk right onto a serious title contender.

  8. Report: Kobe Bryant was ‘very good’ in Lakers meeting with LaMarcus Aldridge, which went ‘really well’

    Jul 1, 2015, 11:26 AM EDT

    2015 BET Experience - Genius Talks Presented By AT&T Getty Images

    Lakers feel better about this one than previous meetings with Carmelo Anthony and Dwight Howard.

  9. Report: Heat, Goran Dragic agree to five-year deal worth $90 million

    Jul 1, 2015, 10:38 AM EDT

    Orlando Magic v Miami Heat Getty Images

    This was expected. But what happens with Dwyane Wade?

  10. Report: Bulls bringing back Mike Dunleavy on three-year deal worth $15 million

    Jul 1, 2015, 9:54 AM EDT

    Mike Dunleavy, James Harden AP

    Solid move by Chicago at an extremely reasonable price.

  11. Report: Cleveland Cavaliers reach out to veteran Tayshaun Prince

    Jul 1, 2015, 8:30 AM EDT

    Indiana Pacers v Detroit Pistons Getty Images

    Prince played better than you’d think last season, but he will turn 36 this coming year.

  12. Report: Kings aggressively pursuing Rajon Rondo

    Jul 1, 2015, 8:00 AM EDT

    Dallas Mavericks v New Orleans Pelicans Dallas Mavericks v New Orleans Pelicans

    Does putting Rajon Rondo, DeMarcus Cousins and George Karl in close proximity to each other for an entire NBA season seem like a good idea?

Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. L. Aldridge (4779)
  2. D. Wade (4497)
  3. J. Embiid (3845)
  4. L. James (3677)
  5. K. Love (3291)
  1. K. Bryant (3122)
  2. D. Cousins (3031)
  3. J. Butler (2761)
  4. T. Harris (2745)
  5. K. Durant (2495)