Dwight Howard officially became a Rocket on Saturday. It came as no surprise to me. What is surprising is that I’m actually quite happy about the Howard signing now that I’ve gotten to see more of Howard and have a better understanding of the issues that he faced in the past. I think Howard is finally with a team where he belongs. L.A. was the wrong place for Howard. D’Antoni was the wrong coach (for anybody ;-)) and Bryant was the wrong teammate (for anybody). Howard is perhaps the best pick-n-roll big, but didn’t want to do pick-n-rolls with Bryant, because Bryant would end up scoring most of the time, rather than feeding Howard out of pick-n-rolls. In Houston, I think Howard will be more willing to play pick-n-rolls, because he’ll get more chances to score–especially if he does pick-n-rolls with Lin.
Since I’m sure you’ve all listened to and read the news about the Howard signing, I won’t rehash everything that’s been written. From some of the interviews that I’ve seen of Howard, he doesn’t seem like a bad guy. So I’m having a change of heart about Howard. My biggest concern about Howard in the past is that he’d disrupt the chemistry of the team, because I thought he was a selfish player and person. But I think I felt that way, because I never really looked into his situation and so I bought into the media hype about him. Now that I’ve gotten to know him a little more, I don’t think he’ll disrupt the team chemistry–especially since most of the guys want him on the team.
As I’ve said in the past, even though playing in the NBA is a tremendous privilege, it is still a job for these guys, at the end of the day. And, like any job, when you’re not happy, you’re not performing at your best. Howard has not been very happy with his job for several seasons and that’s why he’s had a few rough seasons. But I think he finally does feel like he’s exactly where he belongs in Houston and will start having fun again on the court. I expect Howard to have one of his best seasons in this upcoming season, if he’s 100% healthy. I think he’ll thrive in a team that will do everything they can to make him successful. The most recent example is the fact that they’re working to hire Hakeem Olajuwon to coach Houston’s big men. So I don’t expect to see the Dwightmare in Houston.
I think Rockets will do exceptionally well with Howard. Of course, the big question for us LOFs is what happens to Lin? Well, there were a lot of Lin trade talks leading up to the Howard signing. I’m sure most of you have watched Paul’s videos from Conservative New Media. If not, go and check them out, because I completely agree with Paul’s analysis/speculations of what the Lin trade talks were all about. Rockets shopped Lin (and Asik) around mostly for Howard’s benefit. And now that they have Howard, Lin is very likely to remain with the Rockets. I think another big reason Lin will stay is that Lin’s stock has gone down due to everything that happened in the playoffs, so Morey can’t get the value he wants for Lin. I’m not as confident that Asik will stay, although I think Asik should stay. Even with Howard, Rockets still need a solid backup center and now Rockets have the luxury of having a premiere center as a backup. The only way I trade Asik is if we can get a good backup center and another pretty high caliber player. But I think it would be a mistake to trade Asik for an all-star level Power Forward and not have a solid backup center. I’m one of the rare people who don’t think we need a star Power Forward, because I have a lot of confidence that Terrence Jones will fill that role. He may not be an all-star, but he’ll be good enough for what we need at that spot in this upcoming season.
Anyway, I’m getting a little off topic. Back to Lin. From a purely basketball standpoint, Howard is perfect for Lin. I mean, you’ve got two of the best pick-n-roll players in the game, so their skill sets are very complementary. Lin lost out on tons of assists, because Asik wasn’t a good with catches and finishes. Also, Rockets didn’t do enough pick-n-rolls–especially early in the season–because they didn’t have any big men who were comfortable with setting picks. We all know that Lin thrives in the pick-n-roll, so that was a big reason for Lin’s slow start in Houston. So from a purely basketball standpoint, having Howard is great for Lin.
Of course, there are other factors involved for Lin. The biggest factor is that now that the Rockets have another big star, will McHale sacrifice Lin’s game even more? If McHale focuses purely on X’s and O’s then Lin’s game shouldn’t be sacrificed and should actually be emphasized even more. But I don’t have much confidence that that’s going to happen. We’ll see, though. At the end of the day, a lot of it will depend on Lin and how well Lin’s shot improves. He’s been working hard on his shot all summer and it was already improving very steadily last season. So I do expect Lin to shoot much better this season.
So, overall, I’m a lot happier than I expected I would be about the Howard signing. I see big things for Houston and for Howard. And I potentially see big things for Lin, too, unless McHale screws it up. The Lin situation will have to be monitored during training camp and such. Hopefully, Lin stays with the team, but, like Paul from Conservative New Media, I wouldn’t freak out if Lin got traded. We’ll follow him wherever he goes.