I believe the transition will take place after this season. What I’m talking about is Howard’s transition into a more traditional center.
As reported over the summer, Dwight Howard expressed his intention to learn from Lakers great and the NBA’s all-time scoring leader, Kareem Abdul-Jabaar. He even reached out to Kareem and met him in person in order to get things started on the right foot.
Additionally, as many of you have heard by now, former Lakers center Shaquille O’Neal–who has touted Andrew Bynum as the league’s best center since last season–went as far as saying that Brooklyn Nets’ center Brook Lopez is also better than Dwight Howard; he initially stated New Orleans Hornets’ center Robin Lopez, but when asked if he meant Brook, replied “Brook. Same thing. They’re brothers.”
I’m not going to sit here and defend Shaq, but I can at least understand where he’s coming from. His reasoning for favoring those guys as centers over Howard is simply because “they play with their backs to the basket.”
That much is true. Those players have more of a traditional game, but I think someone needs to ask Shaq who he’d rather build a franchise around. Obviously Howard’s defensive dominance and raw physical ability would likely receive a unanimous decision in favor of Superman among GMs in the league and if Shaq actually answered “Brook Lopez” in that question, maybe Cap’ is right and Shaq is delusional.
Anyway, this is part of the reason I believe Howard is going to transition into a more traditional center. More importantly, it’s what the Lakers will need from him going forward.
Kobe Bryant intends to retire once his contract is up (which will be in 2014), and at that time Dwight Howard will be the face of the franchise.
Pau Gasol will be 34 and may not even be a Laker anymore, Steve Nash will possibly still be with the team entering his last contractual season at 40 years of age, and Dwight Howard will be smack dab in his prime at the age of 28.
Basically, the offense and the defense will be running through the big fella, and he’s going to need to be the best he can be. It’s quite remarkable that Howard was able to lead his Orlando Magic to the 2009 NBA Finals at age 23, but imagine how great he can be at 28 and with an elite offensive arsenal.
I, for one, believe he will transition his game and learn to become a back-to-the-basket center, learn how to use both hands effectively, and learn a myriad of new offensive moves; all while still utilizing his athletic ability.
He may never have the soft touch that Pau Gasol or even Andrew Bynum possess, but he can definitely refine his offensive game and make himself unstoppable.
Even if he never ends up working with Kareem, he has two of the best post-players in the league today–Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol–working alongside him in practice every single day, and will undoubtedly pick up some things. And if he’s actively looking to add to his offensive repertoire, those guys will be more than willing to help him out.
Gasol is as nice as they come, and Kobe has already stated that he intends to teach Dwight every thing he knows so that when he retires, the franchise will be in good hands. Additionally, Howard is apparently eager to learn from Bryant and follow his lead, and reportedly Kobe has already been secretly mentoring him for years!
You may be asking, “Well, how can Kobe teach Dwight how to be a center?” Well, he can’t. But, Bryant has the best footwork in the league–which includes his post game. In fact, he arguably has the best post game in the league today. Add on top of that Bryant’s infinite knowledge of the game of basketball, and he can make even the best players better.
In either event, Howard has all the basketball knowledge in the world in the forms of Kareem Abdul-Jabaar, Pau Gasol, and Kobe Bryant when it comes to operating in the post, and Kobe and Steve Nash’s brilliance of the overall game, at his disposal.
As long as Howard maintains his eagerness and will to learn, I truly believe we will see the best center in the game today transition into one of the greatest players to ever play the game.