Former NBA center, Hall of Famer, Hakeem Olajuwon believes that current Rockets’ All-Star center Dwight Howard can become a dominant center again.
“He’s healthy. He’s strong. He’s ready,” said Olajuwon, who currently is Rockets’ player development specialist.
“Now it’s about having the attitude to go out every night and dominate,” he said, NBA.com reported.
Olajuwon officially rejoined the Houston Rockets after Howard signed a free agent contract with the Rockets in July 2013.
Olajuwon recently concluded his second training camp stint working with Howard. Prior to the start of camp, Olajuwon had not worked with Howard since the end of last season.
“He’s older, more mature and you can tell that he is feeling better physically,” Olajuwon said. “I like what I saw. He is a very hard worker. He takes the job seriously and you can see that he has used some of the things we talked about last season and is making them part of his game.”
Olajuwon believes Howard has regained his fitness and is ready to play even better.
“It was a good start, but last year Dwight was still trying to recover from the back surgery and to feel like himself again,” Olajuwon said. “I think a lot of people don’t appreciate what it is like for an athlete to have a back injury. It is serious. It is a challenge.”
Olajuwon recalled that last year when he worked with Howard in the camp, there were some things that he couldn’t do, and also things he didn’t think he could do.
“The difference now is that he is fit and those doubts are gone. This is the player who can go back to being the best center in the league and the kind of player that can lead his team to a championship,” Olajuwon said.
“I think he should be dominant at both ends of the floor,” he said.
Olajuwon knows a bit about being dominant. Along with Michael Jordan, Olajuwon is the only player in NBA history to be named MVP of the regular season, Defensive Player of the Year and Finals MVP in the same season when he led the Rockets in 1994, and won another title in 1995.
Olajuwon also doesn’t think that the Rockets became a weaker team after the departure of Chandler Parsons, Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik.
“They have Dwight and they have James Harden,” he said. “That is two of the best players at their positions in the league. Those two can lead. Those two can do enough. You don’t need to have All-Stars at every position.”
“The Rockets will need good play from some young players and from others who will be getting their chance to be key players for the first time in their careers. But when we won our first championship in 1994, we had Sam Cassell, who was a rookie, playing at the end of games and making a difference. When we won in 1995, we had Clyde Drexler. But we also had Pete Chilcutt in the starting lineup and Chucky Brown and Charles Jones stepping up off the bench,” Olajuwon recalled.
“When you have Howard and Harden, you have two players who can do much of the scoring. What you need are others to not try to do too much. Just concentrate on doing your job and coming to play every night.”
“We all know that center is the key position in the game,” Olajuwon said. “Everything should go through you — offense and defense and the right mentality. If the center is thinking about dominating, the team can go far, can go all the way.”
“I played at a time when were so many players that could win the MVP each year — Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Charles Barkley, Karl Malone. It meant you weren’t going to win the MVP every year. But you had to play like an MVP and have your name in the conversation. I believe that’s where Dwight is now,” Olajuwon said.
“It is about attitude. He should have a season that makes everyone vote for him as MVP. If that happens, they should be contenders for the championship. I believe that. Now they have to believe it,” he said.
Olajuwon established himself as an unusually skilled offensive player for a big man, perfecting a set of fakes and spin moves that became known as his trademark Dream Shake.
He led the Houston Rockets to back-to-back NBA championships in 1994 and 1995. In 2008, he was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. Olajuwon is a 12-time NBA All-Star, and has been named the 1994 NBA MVP.
Olajuwon is considered one of the greatest centers ever to play the game. Some say, he was the best. He played in 1238 NBA games (1186 started), averaging 21.8 ppg, 11.1 rpg, 2.5 apg and 3.1 bpg in 35.7 minutes of action.Follow @exnbadotcom
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