Dwight Howard improved after after the All-Star break last season – before All-Star break: 16.3 points and 11.8 rebounds per game; after All-Star break: 18.4 points and 13.6 rebounds per game – and the reason is no secret: His back got healthier.
But that wasn’t the only factor.
Howard told Ken Berger of CBSSports.com he also started eating healthier around the season’s mid-point. He reduced the amount of sugar he was consuming – candy, Gatorade and even fruit – and focused on better foods.
Now, he wants the Rockets to join him.
Howard in a Q&A with Berger:
Q: Since you’ve been here, have your teammates been curious about what you’re doing and wanted to try it? Or do they think you’re crazy?
A: They think I’m crazy. They’re young and they want to have the candy and stuff like that. But I just tell them, ‘You might not feel it now. But once you get a little bit older, stuff is not going to work like you want it to work. You’re not going to be able to just come in the gym and be loose and stuff like that. So you’ve got to start doing little things now that will prolong your career.’ They were more receptive to that. But they hated the fact that there was no candy on the plane. I just tell them I’m just trying to look out for their well being because I don’t want them to get injured and have to sit out, miss games or miss a season or miss a summer because of an injury. So if they can kind of tackle that problem early, they’ll be fine.
Q: So you’ve had an influence on what kind of food is available on the plane and in the locker room and hotel?
A: Oh, yeah. Absolutely.
Q: How so? How did you get that done?
A: I just talked to the trainers and also talked to the GM about it, making sure that guys eat healthy. They might not feel it now during the season, but when the playoffs come and they’re eating healthy, the more they eat the stronger their bodies will get. And that’s when they’re going to feel the difference. When other teams are tired, we’ll be able to go that extra mile because we have that extra energy that’s been stored by eating the right food.
Here’s a tip for Howard. Want to motivate your teammates to eat better? Bring up money. It won’t resonate with every teammate, but there’s no better way to motivate as many of them as possible.
Howard was going to get a max contract this offseason no matter what. It didn’t matter whether or not he played better while eating healthier. Even a Howard with poor eating habits was more valuable than a max contract.
But he did play better while eating healthier, and that distinction matters for most players. For most players, when they play better, they make more money.
There’s a lot that goes into being a successful NBA player, but physical tools are a huge part of the equation. The players who keep their bodies in prime shape earn more and earn for longer.
Everyone faces good reasons to eat better, and everyone has unique motivations. But for NBA players, money is an especially relevant factor.