I’d like to send a shout-out to @buttermpancakes on Twitter for compiling this video a few days ago.
I’d like to send a shout-out to @buttermpancakes on Twitter for compiling this video a few days ago.
Elaine Thompson/AP Photo
The blogosphere is a fascinating place. It really is. When people read something so profound, so enlightening, they want to share this newfound treasure they’ve found to the rest of the world. Or at least try. This is one of those cases.
At FreeDarko, some of the best writers in the NBA universe have been trying to “crack the mystery of Hakeem Olajuwon and his Rockets” for the past few weeks — the articles that have been written are all must-reads.
En lieu of the ongoing storyline regarding Dwight Howard‘s relationship with Olajuwon, today, Sebastian Pruiti of NBA Playbook and Nate Parham of SBN Seattle teamed up to compare the 1995 Houston Rockets and the 2010 Orlando Magic.
It’s a comparison that’s apt, but not perfect, because the Rockets executed a 4-out/1-in offensive scheme on their way to a seemingly improbable championship in 1995.
It’s not a perfect comparison because there are many subtle differences when comparing the Magic to their contemporaries. Houston had Olajuwon, one of the best centers in league history and a magician on offense. Clyde Drexler was a dynamic scorer and an underrated passer throughout his career. Robert Horry was, at that time, at his athletic peak and a versatile player on both ends of the floor. The differences between the two teams can be further broken down, but Pruiti and Parham explain things in much greater detail.
The one thing that stood out in the article, however, was this breakdown:
This begins to bring some clarity to what the Magic lost in Hedo Turkoglu, if that wasn’t already obvious. Although comparing [Vince] Carter, Howard, and [Rashard] Lewis to Drexler, Horry, and Olajuwon appears to make more sense on the surface, the playmaking ability of Turkoglu – and even that of Courtney Lee – made that Magic team far more comparable as a unit in terms of being able to knock down perimeter shots and creating scoring opportunities with ball movement.
An argument is made that the 2009 Magic, not last year’s team, compare more favorably to the ’95 Rockets primarily because of Turkoglu’s playmaking ability at the small forward position. This isn’t to say that Vince Carter isn’t a playmaker because he is, but his playmaking consists of scoring rather than passing. Of course, Carter’s role is determined largely by head coach Stan Van Gundy‘s needs and wants on the roster. More can be said, but make sure to read the analysis.
When critics argue that Orlando can’t win a title with an offensive philosophy that asks for four shooters to surround one low post presence, they seemingly forget the Rockets of yesteryear. It’s true that Howard is no Olajuwon and Houston relied less on three-point shooting, but many of the strategies are the same and that’s what matters when trying to make sense of the current Magic era. Of course, at the end of the day, it’s Howard continued development on offense that will determine if the comparison becomes a reality.
The more things change, the more they stay the same. The Atlanta Hawks have a new head coach and a new philosophy on offense, but none it mattered.
Despite those subtle changes, the Orlando Magic were able to extend their pre-season winning streak to 20 games after defeating the Hawks by the score of 102-73. The Magic were led by a balanced attack, as five players scored in double-figures. The two individuals that stood out for Orlando were Dwight Howard and Brandon Bass. No, that is not a typo. Howard finished the game with 14 points, 13 rebounds, and one block while Bass had 17 points and eight rebounds. Perhaps one of the more interesting things to take away from the game was the attendance at Philips Arena. Atlanta drew a crowd of 7,571 people. To put that number in perspective, a crowd of 8,516 watched the Magic’s open practice on Sunday at the Amway Center.
I guess there’s better things to do in Hotlanta on a Monday night. In a sense, can’t blame the fans.
Let’s start things off with Howard.
“We were fierce competitors,” [Patrick] Ewing said Saturday. “When Hakeem and I faced up, we wanted to kill each other.”
Ewing was only half-laughing.
Their careers have been intertwined, from college to the NBA. There is more respect between them than reverence, however.
Dwight Howard, innocently enough, has stepped right into the Ewing-Olajuwon rivalry to learn the game from two of the game’s best big men.
Ewing has had Howard under his considerable wing-span for the last three seasons as a Magic assistant coach.
Olajuwon cut in, so to speak. He contacted Howard during the playoffs and a relationship blossomed, leading to Dwight training five three-hour days with Olajuwon this summer.
If Ewing is bothered by either Howard seeking another big-man guru or by Olajuwon’s unsolicited advice, he doesn’t show it. [...]
Ewing said all that matters is growing Howard’s game and keeping him on the hall-of-fame path already traveled by Pat and Hakeem.
This article was going to come, sooner or later. Once it became know that Dwight Howard worked out with Hakeem Olajuwon in Houston during the off-season for a week, one of the first questions asked was ‘what does Patrick Ewing think about this?’
Ewing, of course, is the assistant coach of the Orlando Magic and has been Howard’s mentor, of sorts, for the past three years. And any hardcore NBA fan knows that Ewing and Olajuwon have a history with each other — most notably in the 1994 NBA Finals, when Ewing’s New York Knicks faced off against Olajuwon’s Houston Rockets. The Rockets won the series in seven games and for Ewing, it would be the closest he’d get to winning a championship. So, in a way, it makes sense for someone to think that Ewing would disapprove of Howard working with Olajuwon. The rationale being that Ewing’s competitive edge would blind him to the idea of a competitor, a rival in the ’90s, helping one of his players. It’s encroachment. Yet at the same time, that line of thinking doesn’t make much sense. It’s Howard’s choice. Ewing is irrelevant in this conversation.
To be frank, Dan Savage of OrlandoMagic.com said it best about Ewing:
He wants Dwight Howard to improve his game as much as any other coach on the Magic and he’s encouraged Dwight, he’s helped Dwight reach out to these people, so I don’t think there’s any sort of controversy there between Patrick Ewing and Hakeem Olajuwon. Patrick Ewing wants what’s best for Dwight Howard, he wants what’s best for this team and ultimately, I think Patrick wants to be a head coach in this league and the best way for Patrick to become a head coach in this league is for the Magic to win a championship and the best way for the Magic to win a championship is for Dwight Howard to become the best player he can be.
Which is why, for Magic fans, it’s reassuring to see that Ewing doesn’t mind that Howard sought out to learn from another teacher. In the end, it makes all too much sense in the world.
Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images
Hawks: Peachtree Hoops
Recaps: All Previews
Here’s Part II of my roundtable discussion (click here for Part I). In this segment, different Orlando Magic writers talk about Dwight Howard‘s evolution on offense with the help of Hakeem Olajuwon, and more.
What will it take for opposing players to respect Howard’s jumpshot just enough and as such, alter the way they defend him?
Melnick: Howard has to have more confidence in his shot and just shoot his jumper more often. Anyone who has been to a Magic practice has seen Howard make the shot fairly consistently. Up until now, Howard hasn’t had the confidence to consistently take the shot. If Howard begins to shoot more and more, his confidence is going to grow. Defenders will have to respect that shot and that will allow Howard to use his superior athleticism to blow by his opponents like he does when he faces slower defenders. We saw a glimpse of this in Orlando’s first preseason game when Howard utilized a spin move to get easy looks against Yao Ming of the Houston Rockets.
Robbins: I’m not sure. I think Howard is so effective on the inside, that it would take a lot for opposing teams to significantly alter the way they defend him because if he gets the least bit of space down there, he’s unstoppable. He’s already next to unstoppable and the only way to really stop him when he’s close to the basket is to foul him. He’s got to show that he can hit that 12-15 foot jumper with regularity, with a very solid regularity, for them to leave the hoop. Certainly we saw Yao Ming respect that jumper in the first pre-season game. If you recall, Dwight hit a pair of those mid-range jumpers in the game’s first six minute and then Dwight used a pump-fake to get Yao to commit for a great drive to the hoop. I don’t know if other centers will play Dwight that way. I think Yao is rather immobile, so we’ll see what happens. Time will tell with that.
Rock: He has to start hitting them, which can’t happen unless he takes them, which can’t happen until he feels comfortable taking them, which can’t happen until he takes a few hundred per day. He’s accomplished the last two parts. Let’s see if he can continue progressing. Until then, we have the memory of his sinking two jumpers over Yao Ming, and then driving by him for a score when Yao honored his shot, this preseason to hold onto.
Rossman-Reich: They may never fully respect Howard’s jump shot. After all, what would you rather give up? A 12-foot jumper from Howard or a dunk or a 5-foot hook shot that leaves Howard in good position for the offensive rebound. But to get teams to really respect it, he has got to come out with it early in the season and early in games and make two, maybe three per game. It sounds extreme, but, again, what kind of shot would you have Howard rather shoot? He has got to really be killing teams with his jumper before teams start to defend it the way Howard can take advantage of it.
Savage: To me, it’s simple. He’s got to make them. It’s as simple as that. I think the key for Howard is take a few early on in the game, be confident with them, knock them down. If he takes them early on in the game and establishes that, it’s going to carry over to the later periods. As we saw when the Magic played the Rockets against Yao Ming, Dwight Howard took a few early shots early in the game, knocked them down, Yao Ming stepped up, and then he started blowing past him. I think that’s the key. If he can knock a few of those down in the first quarter, opposing defenses are going to start playing up on him and then he can use the advantage of switching back-and-forth and exploding past people and using his biggest asset, which is scoring within the circle.