Feb 5, 2014; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard (12) hands his sleeves to a Rockets fans as he leaves the court after the game against the Phoenix Suns at the Toyota Center. Howard leads his team with 34 points and 14 rebounds. The Rockets defeated the Suns 122-108. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
For a young team like the Houston Rockets looking to take the next step of becoming Western Conference contenders, it sure is good to have Dwight Howard on your side; not just for production on the court, but apparently, as the leader of the locker also. According to Shams Charania of RealGM, one of the reasons that Howard chose Houston during his free agent courtship last summer was because of the opportunity of having his voice heard in the locker room:
“Part of the Houston Rockets’ successful free agency pitch to Dwight Howard had been to orchestrate his own locker room again, revitalizing a personal pride in the process. No more tense future Hall of Famers uneasy about the incumbent star, no more day-to-day scrutiny over his smile and leadership, his free throws and hook shots.
Howard never wanted to step on the toes of Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol and Steve Nash and any Los Angeles Laker, but he’s never one to lead from the shadows, either. There, Howard was simply one of the guys. Yet beyond his individual greatness and double-doubles, everyone from Howard’s past understood he also brought jubilating jokes and his own concepts about controlling the environment and managing roles.
With the Lakers, Howard’s cries for increased touches and his ability to forge winning relationships always felt empty and strained, and Houston management knew it. The Rockets’ hierarchy understood opposing suitors had tried to tarnish elements of Daryl Morey’s roster, and countered with reason no one will match the closeness of this group, with vows a franchise star’s run of the organization starts with no insecurities or differences within his own locker room.”
Howard also went on to say how he doesn’t have to ask for the ball anymore like he did last year, his teammates already know the ball needs to be dumped in the low post:
“I don’t have to say, ‘I need the ball,’” Howard told RealGM. “The guys here know what we have to do to be successful, to play inside out. We have young guys, and they want to accomplish some things in this league also. I understand that. I understand that we need everyone. If I can make sure that guys are happy, that 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. 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.”
Too many people were caught up in the “tradition of the Lakers” that leaving the team for a young, and at that point, rather obscure Rockets team seemed to be a horrible decision. Yet, being provided an opportunity and fitting into a team both on and off the court accounts for so much success to any NBA player.
Howard made the right decision, like many believed the minute he signed with the Rockets, and it’s shown so far. Having fun clearly is a part of his makeup, but it’s his leadership and the ability to talk about his past experiences that’s been the most important thing to the rest of the team. He’s been worth every penny that the Rockets have spent on him so far, and hopefully, he will continue to be.