Even though he's on the other side of the globe, Hakeem Olajuwon hasn't lost sight of his prized pupil, Dwight Howard.
And the Hall of Fame big man is not impressed with what he's seen.
"The truth is that I can’t wait to get back to Houston to do more work with Dwight,” said Olajuwon, who's in Nigeria to help launch a basketball program for local youths, via Fran Blinebury of NBA.com. "I wish he was doing a better job."
Did Olajuwon set the bar too high for the first-year Houston Rockets center? Howard's notable 2013 numbers (17.2 points, 13.9 rebounds and 2.4 blocks) are almost mirror images of his career marks (18.2, 13.0 and 2.2, respectively).
But the stat sheets themselves don't bother Olajuwon. It's the way Howard's going about—or not going about, rather—compiling them.
Olajuwon said Howard's been too mechanical and too passive in the offensive post:
Dwight has always been athletic and aggressive and he still is. But when I watch him, what I see are opportunities that he is missing. When he gets the ball, he seems to be taking his time to decide what move to make, where he should go.
There should not be a delay for Dwight. He must be able to make a faster recognition of the situations and react immediately with a go-to move. You must move right away before the defense has a chance to set up. You must be the one making the first move so that you can force the defender to always be the one reacting.
Not only is Howard slow to attack, but defenses (and analysts) seem to always be one step ahead:
Lower the left shoulder. Dribble toward the middle into the paint. Is there a player with a more predictable go-to move than Dwight Howard?— A. Sherrod Blakely (@SherrodbCSN) November 20, 2013
If Olajuwon shared even a handful of his post tricks with his student, then Howard should never let defenders off their heels.
But the lessons learned at Dream School, Olajuwon said, seem to have been forgotten:
I thought we were doing a good job with this when we were working together over the summer and at the start of training camp. But what I see now is that when Dwight gets in competition, he has a tendency to go back to all of his old habits. He’s just doing all of the things that he did before. He needs a reminder.
Is there still hope for Howard's post game to develop?
Luckily, that need for a reminder hasn't harmed Houston in a major way. The Rockets (8-4) hold the fifth-best record in the Western Conference and are currently riding a three-game winning streak.
But this team has the chance to do something special, an opportunity that becomes immensely easier if Howard can expand his post game. He's making the most of his physical tools (size, speed, athleticism), but he still has no ceiling if he can develop his offense.
Besides, his athletic advantage will only work for so long. Howard's old coach, Stan Van Gundy, said that age and injury have already affected his former player.
"He's gotten a little older, and the back injury is there," Van Gundy told Grantland.com's Zach Lowe. "That will take away some of his quickness and mobility."
If these post sessions don't work, maybe Olajuwon has some anti-aging secrets he can pass along. The Dream had five seasons of 23-plus points per game after he turned 30.
Howard has yet to top the 23-point mark over his first 10 seasons. He should be begging Olajuwon for a lesson plan.