Hall of Fame center Hakeem Olajuwon spoke on Tuesday from Nigeria about his involvement in a basketball initiative for the youth in his native country. But it appeared that his other focus was on the star center of the Houston Rockets, Dwight Howard, who he believes has struggled thus far in the early season.
“The truth is that I can’t wait to get back to Houston to do more work with Dwight. I wish he was doing a better job. Dwight has always been athletic and aggressive and he still is. But when I watch him, what I see are opportunities that he is missing. When he gets the ball, he seems to be taking his time to decide what move to make, where he should go.”
“There should not be a delay for Dwight. He must be able to make a faster recognition of the situations and react immediately with a go-to move. You must move right away before the defense has a chance to set up. You must be the one making the first move so that you can force the defender to always be the one reacting. I thought we were doing a good job with this when we were working together over the summer and at the start of training camp. But what I see now is that when Dwight gets in competition, he has a tendency to go back to all of his old habits. He’s just doing all of the things that he did before. He needs a reminder.”
Olajuwon worked hard with Howard during the summer, teaching him and helping his low-post game, something that Howard still hasn’t seemed to develop yet. Olajuwon was hired by the Rockets as a mentor and player development coach, and left Houston in early October to return to Jordan. He plans to come back to Houston before the all-star break and will remain with the team for their stretch run and the playoffs. His clear initiative would be to devote his attention on Howard’s post-up game, and free throw shooting.
“Maybe if I am there with him all of the time we can reinforce new habits and make it all feel natural. I think this is where a confident routines comes in. It’s not just putting in hours and hours of work. It’s getting a solid routine and staying with it. With Dwight right now, I think it’s more mental. Sometimes you just have to let it go. Don’t think. Don’t hesitate. Just trust your routine and let it go. I won’t say that you can’t ever win a championship as a big man if you don’t shoot free throws well, because Shaq did it four times. But it can be a deciding factor, so you want to fix it.”
In 12 games, Howard has put up numbers similar to those of last year with the Los Angeles Lakers, averaging 17.2 points and 13.9 rebounds, while shooting just 53 percent from the free throw line.