Breaking Down What Dwight Howard Can Learn from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Will he remain a Laker beyond this season? Will he adjust to his role on a team with so many scoring options? Will he develop into the kind of player who could lead Los Angeles whenever Kobe Bryant decides to call it quits?
Those kind of open questions were addressed at least in part by D12's recent meeting with the legendary Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, after which Howard tweeted:
Just set down with @kaj33. Man God is so good. Was in tears. What a blessing. This is like a dream come true. Go Lakers.— Dwight Howard (@DwightHoward) September 3, 2012
Yes, the indications that Howard may be planning a long-term relationship with the Lakers is good news, but his apparent interest in working with Abdul-Jabbar to improve his game is even better news.
According to ESPN LA's Arash Markazi, Howard's relationship with the iconic center could go beyond the occasional meet and greet:
Howard was asked if he was going to work out with Abdul-Jabbar. "I am," Howard responded. "When I am released."
After six appearances in the All-Star game and three Defensive Player of the Year awards, it might seem like the big man doesn't have much left to learn.
On the contrary, though, Howard's best days may very well be ahead of him–especially if he has the right kind of support.
He worked with Hakeem Olajuwon back in the summer of 2010, attempting to hone his post game and add some moves to his repertoire. Howard's strength and athletic ability have never been in question, but his interest in improving his skill set in the painted area is well-founded.
For all his physical tools, Howard really doesn't have much scoring ability more than a few feet from the basket.
Abdul-Jabbar will almost certainly build upon those sessions with Olajuwon, helping Howard extend his range and diversify his offensive approach. If there's one thing the NBA's all-time leading scorer can do, it's putting the ball in the basket.
And, much like Olajuwon, Abdul-Jabbar used plenty of finesse in order to do so, skillfully getting his defender out of position and finishing ever so softly with either hand.
Of course, you might be wondering why Howard needs to bother with any of that.
He's averaged over 20 points a game in four of his last five seasons, and his sheer power and explosiveness might suggest dancing around the paint to be a bit superfluous. In the short term, that may indeed be the case.
In the long-term, however, the Lakers will need more out of Howard.
For one thing, that explosiveness will wane in time. No, the 27-year-old isn't on the brink of any catastrophic athletic decline, but he won't be able to jump over buildings forever either. He'll almost certainly be in his 30s by the time Kobe decides to call it quits, and that's when the Lakers will need Dwight's offense the most.
That's when the team will–oh so ironically–need Howard to be a little bit more like Andrew Bynum.
Bynum worked with Abdul-Jabbar as well, and it clearly paid dividends. He developed a reliable shot he could rely on when pushed off the low-post's premium real estate, and that went a long way in securing a breakout All-Star campaign last season.
Unlike Howard, Bynum hasn't had the luxury of depending so heavily on freakish strength and quickness. He had the size, but he needed to supplement it with skill.
One day, Howard may need to do the same.
It goes without saying that Abdul-Jabbar will also give Howard a crash course in what it takes to be a champion big man. With six titles to his name, there may be no one in a better position to communicate a few intangibles to the man who will likely lead Los Angeles to yet another dominant chapter.
If Howard's leadership on the floor is anything like the way he handles his trade demands, he could certainly use the advice.
The Lakers will need more than just a physical specimen who can keep the paint on defensive lockdown. They'll need a guy whose veteran presence actually means something, and they'll need him to replace far more than Bryant's point totals.
In short, they'll need another Kareem.
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