Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard made a highly publicized visit to Houston this summer in order to work with Rockets Hall-of-Fame center Hakeem Olajuwon, specifically to expand his low-post repertoire. Video of their session hit the internet, and now a meme has taken hold in the NBA world: when Howard scores in the post, it's probably because Olajuwon taught him how.
The Magic players have mocked that line of thinking for a while now. After a game several weeks ago, Magic power forward Brandon Bass jokingly referred to Howard as "Hakeem," then quickly turned away from Howard and brushed his hair to hide his laughter. The idea is the praise of Olajuwon has gone too far. And coach Stan Van Gundy has had enough of it.
Howard made two jumpers against the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday night, which prompted one member of the media to ask Van Gundy about Howard's work with Olajuwon. He winced a bit, and then delivered this classic response.
"Well, that's a little overblown. His shot has been good.
"I will say this, and this isn't a knock on anybody, but Hakeem's gotten more credit for two hours [of work] than anybody I've ever seen. They were in a gym for two hours, three hours. And all of a sudden every shot Dwight makes is because of Hakeem.
"No knock on Hakeem, he's a great guy and everything, but there's not anybody alive that's turning somebody's game around in three hours. That's just not it. Dwight's done a lot of work, and I'm sure Hakeem gave him some advice, but that's starting to annoy me a little bit."
Here, Van Gundy paused, and seemed to realize he had gone far afield. So he gave the reporter something more about Howard's game to work with.
"But yeah, he's making that bank shot a little bit and keeping people off balance and I think it's good."
Count me squarely in Van Gundy's camp here. There ought to be no question Olajuwon's work with Howard has paid off, but we need to maintain perspective here: Howard did not work with Olajuwon as extensively as he's worked with the Magic's own assistant coaches over the year, from Clifford Ray as a rookie to Patrick Ewing now. Let's recognize folks outside Olajuwon who've helped mold Howard's game over the last seven seasons.