For years, the knock on Dwight Howard is that he demanded old-school touches in the post when in reality he was far more dangerous when on the move. Whether rolling after setting a pick, getting out in transition, or just making a cut, his offensive numbers were far better than his post up stats. He no longer draws doubles in the post like he once did, but he remains an efficient scorer at the rim and still is more dangerous when in motion.
Now it seems he is ready to step out on the court — he’s been working on his jumper.
“It’s all about being able to grow and just having confidence,” Howard recently told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Coach (Mike Budenholzer) has total confidence in me shooting the basketball. So, that’s not an issue. I think in the past I’ve started to shoot and then I’ve stopped. I can’t allow missing or anything like that to affect how I play on the floor…
“It’s the mentality,” Howard said. “In my younger years, when I shot those shots I laughed and joked. I don’t think people took it serious when I did that even if I made it. If people see that I’m taking that part of my game seriously, then they’ll get used to it. I think it’s something that they’ve never really seen, especially since I’ve been playing in the NBA. It’s all about how I do it.”
Howard has always wanted playing basketball to be fun first, but that rubbed some former teammates the wrong way. Him taking the game a little more seriously, showing it more respect, and trying to adapt to the direction the NBA is headed would be welcome in Atlanta — and needed. Howard’s inside game — Howard took just two percent of his shot attempts beyond 10 feet last season — is a start contrast from Al Horford, who was a legitimate threat at the arc. Howard is never going to be that, but he can potentially do more than he has before.
Obviously, every team around the league is going to give Howard the space to take all the elbow jumpers he wants until he proves he can knock them down regularly. He’s not going to be treated like Pau Gasol (or Horford).
But maybe coach Mike Budenholzer has finally gotten through to Howard. Maybe this will be closer to the Howard we’ve all wanted to see for years.