Dwight Howard has finally found contentment, not to mention the basketball.
In Houston, under the tutelage of Coach Kevin McHale and newfound mentor Hakeem Olajuwon, Howard is finally again thriving in ways many had come to think he was no longer capable of. The Rockets are on the rise in the Western Conference, currently sitting in second-place in the Southwest Division and as the conference’s No.5 overall seed.
And all it took was an engaged Howard, one motivated by his increased touches and greater sense of responsibility.
“I don’t have to say, ‘I need the ball,”’ the 6-foot-11 veteran center told RealGM.com in touting his role in the Rockets’ offense while, at the same time, taking a shot at his former Lakers mate over his comparatively reduced standing. “These guys here know what we have to do to be successful, to play inside out. We have young guys, and we want to accomplish some things in this league.”
If the last several weeks are any indication, Howard and company may well be on the way. Houston has won eight of its last ten and five in a row, each of them by an average margin of double digits. And Howard has been at the center of it all, averaging 26 points and 11 rebounds over the current winning streak.
“I understand that we need everyone,” said Howard. “If I can make sure that guys are happy, and they’re getting the ball and getting a rhythm, it makes it tough to beat us. My time, my shots will come. I want to make sure guys around me are elevated.”
Imagine that, Dwight Howard taking a relationship role, surely even the thought of that would be a tough sell in Hollywood. Howard struggled mightily in his one season in L.A. playing with Kobe Bryant and in Coach Mike D’Antoni’s system. His average of 17 points is the lowest he’s had in seven seasons and since just his second NBA season. His average of 12.4 rebounds matched his lowest average in five years.
But none of that seems to matter in H-Town, where playing in an offense almost as fluid as the one the Lakers and D’Antoni put on the floor in 2013, Howard is thriving alongside James Harden, Chandler Parsons, Jeremy Lin and Patrick Beverley.
In recruiting Howard in summer free-agency, part of the Rockets pitch revolved around the chance for him to again own his own locker room, now the actual reality of it appears to be resurrecting his career.
“Me being the oldest guy on the team as far as seasons, I have to understand that I have to show these guys the right way to go,” he said.