NBA / Jan 29, 2010 / 3:43 pm

Is Dwight Howard making any progress?

Dwight Howard (photo. adidas)

Maybe you’ve noticed the formula whenever the Orlando Magic play on national TV: Dwight Howard does something good on offense — a hook shot, a drop step, a jumper, basically anything beyond an alley-oop or a Chocolate Thunder dunk — and the announcers inevitably start talking about Patrick Ewing and his role as Dwight’s big-man mentor as the camera zooms in on Ewing looking like a gigantic History professor.

And maybe you’ve noticed the other half of the formula: That whenever Dwight has his stretches of invisibility or fails to show any offensive growth since high school, Ewing is never mentioned. The blame goes to either Dwight for not commanding the ball, or to his teammates for not passing him the ball.

This is Ewing’s third season in Orlando as an assistant under Stan Van Gundy, and as far as I know, his only job is to teach Dwight Howard a post game. So far, has the mentorship been working?

Dwight’s unpolished skills were never more scrutinized than in last year’s run to the NBA Finals, when all eyes were on him as he squared off with Kobe, LeBron and the Celtics. Struggling to score against L.A.’s front line and coming so close to a championship, I figured Dwight would have the necessary motivation to lock himself in the gym over the summer and show up this season looking more like Kevin McHale than Kevin Lyde. Dwight even said he was dedicating himself over the summer to improving his post game. It’s mainly why I led the campaign for Dwight as Dime’s preseason MVP pick.

But so far, Howard’s sixth pro season has been defined by even more offensive mediocrity. Forty-six games in, he’s already had six occasions where he’s scored in single digits, compared to just two single-digit scoring nights out of 102 games (including playoffs) last season. To be fair, foul trouble on the defensive end has played a significant factor in that, but otherwise it’s clear that opponents studied Dwight over the summer and are learning how to defend an arsenal that still appears limited.

Of course he’s showing flashes. He’s always done that. Against the Lakers on MLK Day, Dwight looked like a veritable Tim Duncan, breaking out moves I’d rarely seen him use and even sticking a jumper off the glass on purpose. Against Boston last night, he again had his moments, most notably a nice jump-stop in the lane to set up a baby hook, two of his 11 fourth-quarter points. (Followed by Reggie Miller predictably noting, “You see, that’s ALL Patrick Ewing there.”)

But when you’re among the most impressive athletic specimens to every play the center position — in the same class as Shaq, Wilt, Kareem and Hakeem — and you’re on the books for about $70 million over the next four years, people want more than flashes.

On the other hand, maybe Dwight is being asked to do too much. Fans and analysts want superstars to be able to do everything, but if a guy is going to lead the League in rebounding and blocks every year for the next decade, are you really gonna be mad at him for not being an artist on the low-block? Not everybody has Jordan or Oscar DNA: Jason Kidd never got that jumper to be deadly; Steve Nash never learned to lock anybody down; Dennis Rodman never decided to play offense. So if Dwight can get me 14 boards and three blocks and some momentum-changing dunks and that’s all he’s capable of, that’s fine by me.

But if Dwight really does have the tools to be a great post scorer and he’s just not realizing his potential, what needs to happen? More hours in the gym? Swapping Ewing for a different tutor? A different head coach? Different teammates?

What has to happen for Dwight Howard to be as good as everybody wants him to be?

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  • Detroit Dave

    He needs a go-to move. The same way guards shoot 500-1000 jumpshots a day in the off-season, Dwight should shoot 500-1000 jump hooks a day. Half lefty and half righty. No spins moves. No 15 footers. No drop steps. No dribbling. Just catch and Hook. Thats it.

  • Cha-Ching

    Uh, give him the BALL! How many Orlando games do I have to watch where in the interview Van Gundy says that we need get some inside points and his team never responds. Vince aint passing it. Rashard aint passing it. And when they do give him the ball its too late, 3 seconds, out of position now. Orlando is leading in 3s and 3 attempts but has a big man that good be as good as retro Shaq. If it was Phil Jackson everybody would be on the bench if Dwight doesn’t get passed the ball. When LA had Shaq, he got the ball or else.

  • sweetv0mit

    DIME: Why don’t you guys compare Dwight Howard vs Andrew Bynums progress? Or pretty much Ewing vs Kareem?

  • Prof. TX

    Hakeem runs summer clinics for centers. Maybe Dwight needs to go learn a little dream shake or something. Of course, his trigger-happy 3ball squad would have to pass to him for it to be any good. Shaq never had any range, but he got in good position and people passed to him (and then he could just knock someone over) for his dunk.

    Dwight also gets in foul trouble because opponents can brutalize him but he can’t breathe on them without being tossed. His defense is more force than finesse, but he gets smacked in the head all day without any flagrants and often without any call at all. His calls are the opposite of what Shaq always got. He gets frustrated and then plays a little clumsy as a result.

  • Detroit Dave

    @ Cha-Ching……my advise was depending on if he actually received the ball.

  • http://heckler@aol.com Heckler

    his teammates barely pass him the ball. but then again, why should they? he has NO post moves. if they gave him 25 touches a game, whats he gonna do with it?

    I like Dwight Howard (now). I used to think he was trash and that the Magic should have drafted (defensive ready) Emeka Okafor with the #1 pick and pair him (with then league leading scorer Tracy McGrady).

    But I’m ok with Orlando’s decision to draft/build around Dwight.

    I’d like to see him shoot more. He should be able to go out to about 12ft by now; 6 seasons in.

    But he is NOT making the necessary progress.
    I dunno if Patrick Ewing is to blame. I mean, Ewing has helped more than he’s hurt Dwight.

    All of the BIGS of this decade can’t do shit on offense. Dwight sucks. Tyson Chandler sucks on offense. Eddy Curry sucks. Kwame Brown doesnt even deserve mention. Andrew Bynum is only hyped cause he’s a Laker.

    and can’t none of them do shit on offense.
    is it their mentorship? Perhaps; but unlikely….

  • x0t

    did Ewing “guarantee” that DHo would develop a great offensive game? that would explain it

  • flavur

    I think dwights post game has improved dramatically its just that this season he is getting fewer touches than he did in their run to finals last year. I think they need to have a couple team meeting to get it into everyone’s head that the man and leader of the team is Dwight “Superman” Howard and that if they want to make the threes their shooting they need to pass the ball to Dwight and let him get 8 touches in the first quarter to get his confidence up. Also guys like Vince and Jameer and even Rashard need to start doing what matt barnes is doing driving to rim and either passing out or scoring/getting to the charity stripe cus unless they can create room for themselves to make those threes they won’t be successful. AND I WANT MEAN, SCREAMING, PULL THE SLEEVES UP SVG BACK!!!!!

  • isotope

    we can blame his teammates all day but he has to earn his teammate’s trust. If he was almost automatic in the post, they would always give him the ball. If they didn’t, coach would pull them out if they didnt. Shaq got the ball, Hakeem got the ball, Duncan got the ball; yet all of them were surrounded by shoot-first guards. But the difference is they dominated and OWNED their teams. The Magic still isnt Dwight’s team because he hasnt earned it. No way you can watch a 90s game between the spurs and rockets and for a span of 15 minutes not know that either Hakeem or Robinson was playing. But you can easily forget about Dwight cuz he just disappears sometimes.

  • ctkennedy

    they need to run the offense thru rashard lewis he is there mismatch problem.he is the black nowitzki granted not as good a midrange shooter but he has more consistent range.howard is just a hustle player with mad hops.everybody complains when big man dont rebound and block shots ala amare.so when one does its not enough.he stills avg. more pts than 95percent of the league.

  • ballin

    I think the bigger issue for him is fixing his free throw shot… the way he flicks his wrist is just tough to watch.

    He needs a completely new form… like JVG said about Dwight’s free throw shooting: the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

  • http://twitter.com/PoppiGEE POPPI GEE

    Honestly I think dude might have stunted his own growth some with depending on the raw power so much early.

    Now he has come out of it a good bit but that was in him that it makes the other stuff seem complicated and not natural often.

    Honestly I think you have to rebuild dude from ground zero if you want to see dramatic improvement. I am talking about making it to where he is not allowed to dunk, learn other options, seek other ways.

    Then once he is so much into the methods of scoring in other ways allow him to mix in the power as well. Then you got a weapon.

    If you just take him from current status and try to improve on that results will be little.

    He will be very good as he is now but to make him change his whole format and then mix the power will help him go from very good to great.

  • http://nike.jp/basketball/bg/home.html asmaticasiatic

    Last night he looked good…Orlando just doesn’t seem to have the chemistry and its caused Howard to go long stretches without touches…I think he just has to have more confidence and keep working on his moves….he has all the tools, speed, strength, hops..

  • dapro

    He isn’t comfortable demanding the ball because he knows he hasn’t earned that right

    Once he shows he can be effective not just with scoring but PASSING from the post or out of a double team (one of his biggest problems) then his teammates will trust him with the ball

  • the cynic

    dwight needs to slow down in the post and realize his athletic ability should make him unstoppable; he makes it too complicated by doing Ewing moves that looked terrible then and look even worse now. Ewing was robotic and he has crafted D12 in his image.

    Dwight always seems like he is forcing the issue instead of developing moves based on what the defense is giving him. Every magic game I watch there are at least 5 or 6 times I wonder why the hell Dwight makes the move he does when something much easier is available

  • Guitar Hero

    Ewing is probably a better offensive player than Dwight right now.

  • Mike Honcho

    I agree with Ckkennedy…the offense should be run through Raw Lew, it’ll open things up for Howard a bit. Running that team from the point inside, isn’t going to work. Raw Lew can create the mismatches that will open up the whole floor.

    Dwight has improved a lot, but I personally don’t like a freak of nature, low-post banger, getting tips from a guy who played with finesse and a jump shot. In my opinion, Ewing can only teach somebody like Dwight, but so much, because they have 2 different games.

    Dwight’s game, right now is not on the blocks all of the time. He is a great pick and roll center because he is a lot quicker than most bigs in the league. I still think he needs to loosen up with his back to the basket, because a lot of his moves, while quick, are stiff. In a fast pace, up-tempo offense, he’s unstoppable and could easily average 30 a night. But you slow things down and expect him to bang on the box like Timmy D and you’re gonna lose games.

  • Flipisatrip

    looked damn good down the stretch last night

  • Chaos

    first, i dont wanna hear that whole he doesnt get the ball in the paint because he hasnt earned it. guess what. if you establish position on your man, yu just earned the right to recieve the ball and make something happen, whether by going to the bucket or making the pass to the open man after drawing the double team. second, if he is what your team revolves around then guess what, he is the first one that needs to get in some kind of rhythm in the game. he can draw double teams easily, i would love to see him become a better passer tho. he needs touches. the problem with tthat team is that they have several guys that can go to the hole and draw the defense and pass the ball but only one person does it (barnes) while the other prefer to take a contested jump shot. third, he does need a go to finesse move and develop better touch around the basket. he short arms a lot of shots when he can make a simple move (because of his strength and athleticism and really just toss the ball in the basket with a hook or drop step. fourth, he needs to learn that he cant go thru a lot of players(shaq, perkins, bynum, and oden) but he is alot faster and athletic and he can use his quickness to go around him or make a better move.

  • LakeShow84

    IMO he cant learn to get his moves down during actual games because his touches are limited..

    When i see him he goes pretty fast.. like Kwame Brown used to.. funny how practice and game time are like earth and jupiter..

    But if he avg a good 20-25 FGA i think his offense would come along a lot faster..

  • Bojangles

    You can’t teach some things. Al Jefferson was probably shooting smooth jump hooks when he was in a diaper. Dwight Howard is in the prime of his career and yet his best move is shooting that crappy running hook and saying a prayer.

  • 808

    What has to happen for Dwight Howard to be as good as everybody wants him to be?

    I think it’s the one thing you can’t teach: intensity and that “killer instinct.”

    I’ll admit that I haven’t watched too many games up to this point in the season (blame fantasy football). But in seasons past, where this same discussion always seems to take place, I watch Dwight Howard almost completely disappear. Yah he might grab a few easy rebounds, but he doesn’t demand the ball or when he gets the ball he just passes it back out, and on the defensive end, he’s a non-factor as well.

    We almost never see that with Kobe, Lebron, or even Shaq in those old days. When Shaq got the ball, and started that back-down post move, you KNEW he was gonna make an impact….score or assist to a teammate cutting to the basket.

    But none of these dudes just DISAPPEAR from the game like D-Howard does. And my opinion is that Howard, unlike these other franchise players, often waits for the game to come to him instead of attacking, attacking, attacking.

  • Ian

    he hasnt improved
    hell look at whos teaching him the most overrated ok center of alltime. people actually think ewing was great.

  • http://www.swagbucks.com/refer/ProphetGK ProphetGK

    He’s just strength and vertical, he needs Kareem in his corner not Ewing, why else do you think Laker big men are so good.

  • Promoman

    Part of the problem is that Dwight should try to stay drama free in his personal life. Things like the babymama drama & the recent claim by Mary Carey have probably divided his attention and might’ve hampered the integration and development of expanding his offense. His being frozen out is part of the problem too. The league may be catching on to Dwight and needs to adapt sooner rather than later.

  • QQ

    Yall answered the question. Everybody wants superstars to be EVERYTHING. We just can’t have enough. Finesse player = too soft. Power dunker = no fundamentals. Good passer = doesn’t shoot the ball enough. Scoring PG = selfish.

    But hey, I see Dwight working. There are those flashes, yall see him trying, I can’t ask for more. Of course, we all want to see him turn into that Tim Duncan-like fundamental machine. He’s not there yet, and I dunno if he’ll ever be there. But I see him working, and that’s all that matters. Think about it, he’s just showing ‘flashes’ yet he already led his team to the Finals. Just think about that. And when he finally turns those flashes into a consistent part of his game… Daaamn, the future’s so bright. So so good to be a Magic fan.

  • http://www.diznuts.blogspot.com Darkness

    He’ll will never be that Better Basketball post option – he’s just not that dude. However, if he were aggressive on offense like Amare Stoudemire (who has used his athleticism to enhance his post moves), he’d be averaging at least 20ppg. Amare isn’t down on the block operating like Duncan, but he does have some moves. Granted the Suns and Magic run different systems, I’m just saying he needs to pattern his game off Amare, who seems to have a similar skill set as opposed to a Pat Ewing.

  • D-Nice

    As a Magic fan & someone who watches all the Magic games I have seen D12 make strides (hook shots with either hand)
    the biggest problem has been his own teammates not feeding him in position to score.And the main culprit has been
    Jameer Nelson with his pathetic 4.7 assists per game.The Magic need a real PG to feed D12. He currently averages
    9.4 FG attempts when he should be averaging around 15FGA
    a game.

  • Jay

    @Cha-Ching

    “Orlando is leading in 3s and 3 attempts but has a big man that good be as good as retro Shaq.”

    I’m actually offended by that comment. Lol. Don’t EVER compare Dwight to a young Shaq. The only similarities are their size, strength (and Dwight using the Superman nickname). Basketball skill wise, no comparison. Shaq had the ultimate combination of size, strength, agility, soft hands and footwork. Dwight’s lacking in the latter 3 categories by a lot. No way in hell Dwight will ever be as good on the offensive end as Shaq was. Not even close.

  • jvedo

    this guy is alittle on th soft side

  • Yucca Man

    Am I the only guy that thinks half the problem is that Ewing, of all people, is teaching Dwight post play?

    Ewing? The dude didn’t have low-post presence since the 80’s.

    At least Dwight hasn’t been taught to hang out at the 3-point line, make a disgusting, off-balance drive while falling down and accidentally passing to Charles Smith to somehow save his butt in the biggest crunch-time possession of the year.

  • Arno

    “you’re on the books for about $70 million”. This is the owner’s problem. It should not give DH any pressure. Do the banks feel compelled to give people something in return for the billions they got ?
    DH is a dunker. He can’t do much more. So you need Hedo or CP or that kind of guy to feed him.
    So the obvious answer is “No”. He didn’t make any progress.

  • dragonyeuw

    Send him to Hakeem.

  • Borgs

    Nope. Play off him and give him left and he won’t put up ten on single coverage.