Dwight Howard entered the NBA in 2004 after being one of the best basketball players in American history. After being selected first overall by the Orlando Magic, astronomical amounts of pressure were instantly placed over his shoulders. Not only was he the first overall pick, but he was drafted by the same franchise which enjoyed some of the best years of a once young Shaquille O’Neal, and hadn’t seen much success since his departure for the Lakers. Despite a shaky ending, Dwight had a lot of success in Orlando, even making it to the NBA finals to face Kobe Bryant and the Lakers. We all know what’s happened since then. His career became a mockery since a failed stint in Los Angeles, and a soft presence in Houston playing next to James Harden.
They were no Kobe & Shaq to say the least.
This past summer, Howard decided to take his talents to his home state of Georgia and nobody had much expectations. Luckily for Howard, he was about to join the team coached by none other than Coach Mike Budenholzer. In case you’re unfamiliar with Budenholzer, he is a coach of the year winner, a former Gregg Popovich assistant, and in my opinion the best coach in the Eastern Conference; Yes, over Brad Stevens.
Sometimes in the NBA, you need to the right system and the right players around you. To no one’s surprise, a stretch power forward, a couple of shooters, and Dwight is… happy and back?
“I’m happy to be here with this team.” he said. “These guys mean the world to me. I like these guys. I haven’t known these guys for that long but just spending time with them and talking with them it gives me joy and a determination to come out every night and play hard for them and this organization.”
It’s early, but in just 8 games, Dwight Howard is having his best season since 2013-2014, and if you pay close attention, I can even argue that this may be his best season since his best year in Orlando. With victories over Chicago and Cleveland, Dwight has been efficient on both ends of the floor.
Let me point out what stands out to me the most, his .622 FG% while playing only 28.8 minutes. Not only that, but in just limited minutes, he’s scooping up 12.6 rebounds a game even while playing with far superior big men than those ever present in Houston. Coach Budenholzer has Dwight playing in a successful scheme which utilizes the best Dwight has to offer, all while playing limited minutes. Why the limited minutes matter?
Coach Budenholzer and the Atlanta Hawks recognize Dwight’s numerous back injuries in the recent years. Although he managed to play 71 games last season with the help of blood flow restriction training, it wasn’t the best version of Dwight by any means. He looked hurt. He played through it, I give him credit, but he looked soft repeatedly and if you’ve been following Per Sources, you know I’ve let him have it on twitter repeatedly.
Howard’s limited minutes, being surrounded by shooters, and playing in coach Mike Budenholzer’s offensive scheme has helped rejuvenate his career.
“Dwight has been tremendous for us, everything we hoped for and expected out of him,” said Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer.
“Since I’ve been in the NBA, the goal has been the same, to win a championship. You have to put that in your head, that `I am a champion, we are champions.’ That’s my mindset. Put in the work and good things will happen. You have to have that championship attitude every day. Every guy in this locker room has that approach.”
Howard knows that the better he plays, and the more the Hawks win, it can only change people’s minds about a franchise that lacks a title since relocating from St. Louis to Atlanta, and also change minds about him.
“I feel great,” he said. “A lot of the noise has blinded people about me. If you work hard enough the truth will outlive a lie. A lot of things have been said about me and I know they’re not true. This is bigger than myself. It’s about this team and city.”
Actually, it’s about this team, this city and this player, a trifecta that is making basketball fun again for someone who craves it.
“This has been amazing,” said Howard. “Everyone in Atlanta has my back. I feel it when I’m in the arena every night. It just gives me more energy to go out and fight.” (Shaun Powell nba.com)
Coach Budenholzer has Dwight playing his best basketball in years, and I think its going to be successful all year long.
Have any thoughts? Tweet at me: @TPRx11