First, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar — that lengthy antagonist of Bruce Lee — praised Dwight Howard and his “extraordinary athletic ability.” But then he goes on to say during ESPN’s “First Take” on Thursday, that “Dwight’s basketball IQ is not up-to-speed for him to be a dominant player.” Obviously, this is Jabbar’s opinion, but is he right?
First off, we’ve been pretty hard on Houston’s new acqusition in the last couple days. There was the flip-flopping relationship with former Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy. Then, he told Woj at Yahoo he’s hoping to follow LeBron James‘ “Path to Greatness” this year, in order to stave off all the haterz he’s been dealing with after turning his back on the Lakers and more money (how dare he fly in the face of the a free market system!).
So let’s preface the video below by writing that Dwight is no athletic freak who flies around the court without any awareness outside of his fast-twitch muscles. While Dwight might be completely oblivious of his earnest need to be loved, he knows how and when to step out on a high screen, or when to hang back and protect against the roll man. He knows the proper rotations as the weak side defender, and how to angle a ball handler to the sideline. He’s a three-time DPOY winner, and that didn’t happen in some vacuum where only his aberrational athleticism resides.
What Kareem is talking about then, is Dwight’s sometimes clunky post game. While it might not be aesthetically pleasing to watch D-12 angle towards the bucket in the post like he’s tethered to marionette strings, it has proven to be effective in the not-to-distant past.
It’s been a few years since he led a hot shooting Magic team to the NBA Finals in 2009, but it happened. SVG’s spread-the-floor offense where Dwight sucked defenders into the post and opened up the arc for his teammates, was effective enough to knock off a Celtics squad — without Kevin Garnett — and LeBron James group in Cleveland that finished the regular season with the best record in the NBA. That’s no fluke, Dwight is one of the best basketball players in the league — when healthy.
When healthy is the important part. Last season’s Dwight wasn’t really Dwight, and while Kareem has every right to say that Howard needs to work on the offensive side of the ball, Howard’s defensive smarts shouldn’t be questioned.
A lot of what Dwight says should be taken with a silo-full of salt — like say, this tweet from September last year — but it doesn’t mean he’s a dummy on the basketball court.
Here’s how you know Jabbar’s “take” was a bit hyperbolic. Skip Bayless, that *hallmark of nuanced judgement,* applauded Kareem’s criticism. If we were Jabbar, the effusive praise from Bayless would have given us pause. Skip’s a hack journalist and a media troll that ESPN trots out specifically to rile people up. Anytime you find he’s agreeing with you as you castigate a sports figure, you’re probably on the wrong side of the “debate.”
Below is another example of Dwight’s words turning disingenuous when buttressed against his actions. Even though his words shouldn’t be taken as bond, his defensive acumen shouldn’t be questioned. That’s where Jabbar overreached.
— Dwight Howard (@DwightHoward) September 3, 2012
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