ORLANDO, FLA. (AP) - Dwight Howard had heard it all before, people offering constructive criticism and invitations to improve his game _ he never really seriously listened.
Until he received a phone call from Hakeem Olajuwon.
That tends to happen when the voice on the other end of the phone is the NBA’s former dominant center, shot-blocking king and two-time champion. Olajuwon just couldn’t continue to watch helplessly from home as Howard tried to muscle the Orlando Magic past the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals with the same mundane moves.
Superman needed help.
So The Dream gave him a reality check.
“I got a chance to analyze his behavior. You see the athletic ability and power, but you don’t see a lot of creativity offensively,” Olajuwon told The Associated Press in a phone call from Houston. “He just can’t be afraid to open up his game.”
Olajuwon’s call, which came when the Magic were down 3-0 to the Celtics in last season’s series, pushed Howard to almost single-handedly force the series to six games. Howard shed his happy-go-lucky attitude and became a one-man wrecking crew, giving a glimpse of all that untapped offensive potential so many have craved from the NBA’s twice reigning defensive player of the year.
There just wasn’t enough to show.
They worked for three hours a day, drilled on post moves, face-up jumpers, baby hooks, pump fakes and even some of those famous “Dream” shakes. Olajuwon also stressed the need for Howard to be mentally stronger, tone down his playfulness and maintain focus.
“I realized I had an extra gear,” Howard said, “and that I could be more of a vocal leader and push myself to an extra level.”
And perhaps no longer be limited offensively.
After all, how could a 6-foot-11, 275-pounder with massive muscles and awesome athleticism not even be in the top 20 in scoring? The raw talent has been enough for him to be the first player to lead the league in blocks and rebounds in the same season twice, let alone in consecutive seasons.
So maybe another former No. 1 overall pick and slightly undersized center in Olajuwon, who led the Houston Rockets to a sweep of the Magic in the 1995 NBA finals, could help Howard shore up his flaws.View Entire Story
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