Former Boston Celtics Head Coach Rick Pitino’s frustration reached a boiling point after a buzzer beating loss, once said, “Larry Bird is not walking through that door, Kevin McHale is not walking through that door … and if he did, they’d be gray and old.”
The gray and old, Kevin McHale is now the Head Coach of the Houston Rockets. The Houston fan’s expectations are high and anticipate immediate dividends once Howard returns to action in a couple of weeks.
Superman is not walking through that door. But fans are hoping that Howard’s return will be more like Superman than Clark Kent. As I watch Dwight Howard sit on the Rockets bench wearing colorful slim fitting Euro cut jackets, it’s obvious he wants to be seen. But as much as Howard wants to be seen, Superman in contrast never wanted to be seen. Even Clark Kent a relatively passive personality, wore a conservative suit because didn’t want to be noticed. In fact, its time for Howard to retire the Superman alter ego all together, pack-up the cape, and reintroduce Dwight; three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year and five-time rebounding leader.
Houston was out rebounded by 20 boards in Portland (57 – 37) on March 11th and on the following night in Salt Lake City (60 – 40); both were road losses.
There is no need to panic and rush Howard back into the starting line-up. Howard’s strongest attributes are defense, and rebounding. Every team in the league wishes they could improve on defense and rebounding, and the Rockets are no different. The Houston Rockets should devise a plan to maximize Howard’s playing time.
It would best serve the Rockets by having him come off the bench for the remainder to this season, including the playoffs. Just imagine a defense unit of Josh Smith, Corey Brewer, Dwight Howard, Trevor Ariza, and Patrick Beverley. The length of Smith, and Brewer will create defensive turnovers and the ability to contest shots. Ariza and Beverley are two of the best on-ball defenders at their positions. Dwight Howard is one of the few players that take pride in dominating a game defensively by being a paint patroller and rim protector. This unit will be used in four or five-minute game-time spurts at the end of the first and third quarters, allowing James Harden at lease five minutes of rest.
The true advantage to having Howard come off the bench eases the pressure for him to score, because his value is in rebounding and playing solid defense. However, he should be able to score and gain offensive confidence, posting up back-up centers. Coach McHale should bring Howard along slowly, starting with 15 – 18 minutes per game. The offensive flow of the Rockets hasn’t been a problem. The need for solid rebounding and defensive stops are paramount.
When the news was first reported that Howard had a sore ankle and need an MRI on his knee, there was major concern; then all of the questions followed.
Should Houston trade for a big man? Does Dwight Howard need micro-fracture surgery? Can the Rockets hold on to their top four seed in the Western Conference?
A top four seeding guarantees one more home game, but it doesn’t guarantee playoff advancement. The Rockets have grown into a team that is willing to match wills as opposed to losing control in adverse situations.
NBA analysts are surprised by how well the Rockets have been playing during Dwight’s absence. To a certain degree Dwight is probably most surprised, but I’m sure is itching to get back on the court to be a part of this season.
The Houston Rockets don’t need Superman to walk through their door; they just need a Dwight Howard willing to be super at defense and rebounding.
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