Speaking to reporters Wednesday, Clifford explained he understands Howard well enough to know what it will take to get him back to playing at a star level.
“I know what he has to do to play well,” Clifford said, per the Associated Press (via NBC Sports). “He understands that I know him. I know his game. Being around him in different settings I have a feel for what he likes to do. ... There is no reason he can’t get back to playing at a really high level.”
Clifford knows Howard as well as any head coach in the NBA. He was an assistant coach with the Orlando Magic and Los Angeles Lakers for six seasons from 2007-13 when Howard played for both franchises.
Howard's performance has been declining for the last three seasons, starting in 2014-15 when he missed 41 games with the Houston Rockets due to knee injuries.
He averaged a career-low 29.7 minutes per game last season with the Hawks and his 13.5 points per game were his lowest total since his rookie season in 2004-05. The former No. 1 overall pick hasn't made an All-Star team since 2014.