Hakeem Olajuwon Thinks Dwight Howard Is Ready For An MVP-Caliber Season
Houston Rockets mogul and player development specialist Hakeem Olajuwon won the Most Valuable Player award in 1994 when he led the Rockets to the first of their back-to-back championships. Olajuwon has been a close instructor with Dwight Howard since Houston signed the center in free agency last summer, and the Hall of Famer is adamant that Howard is prepared for a special season, via Fran Blinebury of NBA.com:
I could see last year when I worked with him in camp that there were some things that he could not do. Or they were things that he did not think he could do. The difference now is that he is fit and those doubts are gone. This is the player who can go back to being the best center in the league and the kind of player that can lead his team to a championship. I think he should be dominant at both ends of the floor…
I played at a time when were so many players that could win the MVP each year — Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Charles Barkley, Karl Malone. It meant you weren’t going to win the MVP every year. But you had to play like an MVP and have your name in the conversation. I believe that’s where Dwight is now. He is healthy. He is physically fit. He is strong. He wants to win.
It is about attitude. He should have a season that makes everyone vote for him as MVP. If that happens, they should be contenders for the championship. I believe that. Now they have to believe it.
The MVP race starts out pretty wide open with the reigning award-winner Kevin Durant sidelined for the near future. Howard averaged 18.3 points and 12.2 rebounds per game in his first season with the Rockets. Olajuwon feels Howard was just bouncing back from his back injury and now he is fully healthy,
It was a good start, but last year Dwight was still trying to recover from the back surgery and to feel like himself again. I think a lot of people don’t appreciate what it is like for an athlete to have a back injury. It is serious. It is a challenge.
Howard’s top award achievement was his consecutive runs at Defensive Player of the Year. Dominating the defensive end of the floor is reasonable, but the offensive end is where Howard would have to show tremendous growth if he were to put together an MVP-caliber season. It would also take his dominance leading to a successful Rockets season, which is also on his running mate James Harden.
We’ll see if Houston’s offense predicates more specifically around Howard this season in light of Olajuwon’s theory.