In these past playoffs we saw some flashes of the old Dwight Howard dominating down low, but we saw even more instances of his ability not living up to the Champion status that he bestowed on himself.
Howard’s performance relied on that of Harden’s when the starters were in. When the reserves were in he couldn’t keep up.
One instance in the memorable game 6 comeback against the Clippers: When the Rockets were playing arguably their best ball, Josh Smith was barreling down the court eager to beat the Clippers with fast- paced offense but was halted by a timeout. Howard had called himself a breather timeout.
Howard also picked up enough flagrant fouls to be suspended from game one of next season.
Some people might say that this shows his heart and desire to win. Andrew Bogut had a different take on the physicality.
“There was some physicality there (with Houston), like any playoff series, but the Memphis series was more physical,” Bogut said. “This was more about ducking and weaving and getting out of the way of aired fists and elbows.”
This sounds more like Howard getting frustrated with his play and having to resort to illegal attacks at the opponent because his legal ones were not working.
I am not questioning Howard’s desire to win. I am questioning if Howard still has what it takes to compete at the highest level.
For the first time since his second year in the league Howard was not selected to an all-NBA team.
He missed 41 games this season due to a problematic knee. This does explain some of Howard’s dips in some statistical categories, but he still performed well below most of his career averages. His rebounds, blocks, and points were all down to his rookie/sophomore numbers.
The only category in which the Rockets wish Howard was at his rookie level was free-throw percentage. His rookie year he shot 67.1%. This year he shot 52.8%.
Because of his abysmal FT% many opposing coaches utilize the hack-a-Howard technique. This was seen multiple times in this year’s playoffs. One notable example: In Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals, Howard was 3-7 from the line, and the Rockets lost to Golden State by 1.
With Howard’s declining play and continued free-throw liability (as long as hack-a-player remains legal), his window to truly become the champion that he thinks he is rapidly shrinks.