Olajuwon: Dwight Howard turns to “old habits” once he gets into competition


olajuwon-gymHakeem Olajuwon is in Nigeria now, where he’s helping to launch a basketball initiative for youth, NBA.com reported.

Even from half a world away, though, Olajuwon was thinking about the struggles of his current pupil, Dwight Howard, who he mentored in the offseason after the big man signed a four-year, $88-million free agent contract with the Rockets, Olajuwon’s former team.

“The truth is that I can’t wait to get back to Houston to do more work with Dwight,” said Olajuwon, who left Houston in early October to return to his home in Amman, Jordan and has been keeping track of his pupil on TV.

“I wish he was doing a better job. Dwight has always been athletic and aggressive and he still is. But when I watch him, what I see are opportunities that he is missing. When he gets the ball, he seems to be taking his time to decide what move to make, where he should go,” Olajuwon said.

“There should not be a delay for Dwight. He must be able to make a faster recognition of the situations and react immediately with a go-to move. You must move right away before the defense has a chance to set up. You must be the one making the first move so that you can force the defender to always be the one reacting,” Olajuwon said.

“I thought we were doing a good job with this when we were working together over the summer and at the start of training camp. But what I see now is that when Dwight gets in competition, he has a tendency to go back to all of his old habits. He’s just doing all of the things that he did before. He needs a reminder.”

Olajuwon plans to return to Houston prior to the NBA All-Star break in February and will remain in Houston through the end of the season and the playoffs.

“Maybe if I am there with him all of the time we can reinforce new habits and make it all feel natural,” Olajuwon said.

Olajuwon, who was a .712 shooter on free throws through his 18-year NBA career, has cringed long distance while watching Howard make a career low .531 from the foul line this season.

“I think this is where a confident routines comes in,” Olajuwon said. “It’s not just putting in hours and hours of work. It’s getting a solid routine and staying with it. With Dwight right now, I think it’s more mental. Sometimes you just have to let it go. Don’t think. Don’t hesitate. Just trust your routine and let it go.”

“I won’t say that you can’t ever win a championship as a big man if you don’t shoot free throws well, because Shaq did it four times. But it can be a deciding factor, so you want to fix it.”

Hakeem 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.

He is considered one of the greatest centers ever to play the game. Some say, he was the best. Olajuwon 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.

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