Posted on: August 10, 2011 11:46 am
Edited on: August 10, 2011 12:02 pm
Posted by Royce Young
LeBron in the post. That phrase has almost taken on mythical status, as if it's the lost treasure to LeBron James' game. It's the MacGuffin for him. Add in a solid post game and you've got a Death Star that's fully operational.
That's the idea. And that's why so many people have be chattering about it.
Sounds like LeBron is finally listening. He's getting serious about improving his post game. So serious, that he's bringing in the master to help him out -- Hakeem Olajuwon.
There is a misconception that LeBron has no post game and never has. That's not entirely true, but it's real that he could be better. At 6-8 and 250 pounds with a lightning fast first step, great feet and a strong upper body, there's no reason he shouldn't be dominant there. But for example, against the Mavericks in The Finals, he'd isolate in the post and look like he has no real idea what he wanted to accomplish.
Now LeBron's following behind what other greats have done. Michael Jordan established himself as a post master. Kobe Bryant did after, you guessed it, working with Olajuwon. (The Heat Index has some pretty interesting numbers on Kobe pre and post-Hakeem. Kobe went from 4.1 posts-ups per game to 8.1 after working with Olajuwon and scored 272 more points out of the post the next season. That's an impact.)
Obviously a couple workouts with Olajuwon isn't going to magically turn LeBron into a post wizard. It's a process to build up and improve in that area. It's not even so much about having the moves down, it's about understanding how to apply them in the right situation. What happens when you're doubled at the elbow? What happens when you've got someone isolated on the dribble backing down on the left baseline? What happens when you have the ball faced up on the right block? Realizing and putting together those sequences is almost as much a part of it as anything else. And that comes with lots and lots of application and practice.
But if anything, it's a message from LeBron that he's serious about improving in the area. LeBron's a hard worker, but not necessarily in the sense of fine tuning his game. He's the league's most talented player and that didn't happen by accident. Problem though, it's easy to just remain there. But the greats move on. They evolve. They progress.
Just think if LeBron had a little reliable post game in The Finals against Dallas. That Game 2 collapse where the Heat couldn't do anything for the last six minutes? The ball could've gone to LeBron on the block. He could've gotten a high percentage look or with his passing ability, dished out of a double team and created for someone else. It's diversity within a player and within an offense. Creating options is always a good thing.
Dwight Howard worked with Olajuwon last summer and is again this year. It hasn't been a magical quick fix for him, but he's improved. Like I said, for both players, it's going to take more than a handful of hour-long workouts to really get it. Repitition is what gets it done. But LeBron's done the hardest part -- he got started.
Posted on: August 3, 2011 10:00 am
By Matt Moore
Dwight Howard worked out every day with Hakeem Olajuwon last week, according to the Orlando Sentinel who spoke with Howard about the sessions. Howard says that Olajuwon basically said Howard can already do everything Olajuwon's trying to teach him. He just needs the confidence to put them into the game and... more opportunities from his coach. From the Sentinel:
Olajuwon feels Howard can be an even better offensive player with a little more freedom and confidence in his offensive moves.via Hakeem Olajuwon says Magic aren’t using Dwight Howard enough – Orlando Magic BasketBlog – Orlando Sentinel.
Howard had the 17th highest usage rate in the league last season (percentage of possessions used). That could obviously go up, and most people argue it should. But Olajuwon is really talking about using Howard in a wider variety of ways. Getting Howard out in the pick and roll, where he only spent 6.8 percent of his time last season according to Synergy Sports is a start. Using him in more spots on the floor, and having him do different things with his post moves is hopefully another. Too often Howard went to the same limited arsenal of post moves on the floor, which became predictable and, therefore, defendable.
More concerning to me, however, is this quote:
“For me, it’s all about confidence,” Howard said. “All of the stuff that we worked on is stuff I’ve been doing my whole life.”This is the same stuff we routinely hear from Howard, which is that there is nothing wrong with his offensive game, or if there is, he just has to use it more, and that he can't really be taught anything. If Howard really does have moves like this?
Then he has no excuse for not using them more. Common sense would say he should probably spend as much time with Olajuown as he can and check his ego at the door.
Posted on: July 29, 2011 12:28 pm
By Matt Moore
So, funny story. Last summer, we talked to Dwight Howard about his experiences training with Hakeem Olajuwon. Here's what he said:
CBS: Have you spent any more time since June working with Hakeem Olaujuwon?via Dwight Howard on movies, the Heat, and tennis - CBSSports.com.
Yeah, so, about that. From the Orlando Sentinel this week:
Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard has started training again with former NBA great Hakeem Olajuwon and says he's working on shooting more and on improving his notoriously poor free-throw shooting to above 75 percent.via Dwight Howard: Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard training with Hakeem Olajuwon for second summer in a row - OrlandoSentinel.com.
So apparently that one session was not all he needed. Howard also told me last summer that there was only so much he could gain from the sessions with Olajuwon due to the difference in era and how players are defended. Olajuwon was largely credited with Howard's seemingly improved offensive game, as he empoyed a mid-range face-up pull-up shot to go with his dazzling array of one-step-spin dunks and... one-step-spin dunks. But Howard never really showed any significant improvement in his post-up game, never displaying any of the kind of footwork and touch that Olajuwon was so known for in the post. He did shoot a career high in free throws attempts and percentage, but still left 370 points off the scoreboard at 60 percent.
Howard would do well to not try and develop his range game, but to really commit himself to developing better footwork and an ability to get a clean shot off in the paint when the defense adjusts. He's already the best defensive player alive. Adding any versatility or touch to his offensive game would make him nigh on unstoppable.
Posted on: July 8, 2011 9:50 pm
Edited on: July 8, 2011 10:19 pm
Houston Rockets center Yao Ming has retired. Here's a roundtable discussion about what it means. Posted by EOB staff.
Matt Moore: Is Yao Ming a Hall of Famer?
I'm leaning towards no. He only had two 20-10 seasons where he played over 60 games. There's the Chinese cultural impact and the fact that he was the best center in the league from 2006-2009. But other than that, I'm having a hard time justifying his entry to the Hall.
Ben Golliver: Definitely not based on his NBA record. Didn't play enough games, win enough playoff series, take home enough individual hardware or influence the game's development. But he will get in like Arvydas Sabonis did on the international side for sure. And more than deservedly so. He was a pivotal factor in both the game's spreading influence into China and China's growing interest in the game.
Royce Young: I'm with Ben. There's no denying the impact he made and how important of a player he was to expanding the NBA's global brand, but in terms of what he did on the floor, I don't think so. His 2006-07 season was outstanding, but a lot of players have had really nice isolated seasons here and there.
No doubt he'd be one if injuries hadn't sidelined him, but that's part of it and the reality is, he just didn't play enough.
But in terms of an international Hall of Famer, absolutely. In terms of an NBA one, he simply didn't play enough. I don't think there's a special exception just because someone had a cultural impact (I mean, he's not exactly Jackie Robinson here). It's about what you did and didn't do on the court.
Matt Moore: Let's say he'd stayed healthy. What would his career ceiling have been?
Ben Golliver: Exactly halfway between Mark Eaton and Shaquille O'Neal.
Royce Young: He played in eight seasons and at his size, I don't really think he would've played more than one or two more anyway. He just would've had really nice numbers. He finished with what, 19-9 for his career? I bet he would've been like 22-10 and been, along with Shaq, one of the most dominant players in the league for a decade. Surefire Hall of Famer if he had stayed healthy.
Matt Moore: If Yao had stayed healthy, would we consider Dwight Howard's career differently? I can see making the argument for Yao being better than Dwight all the way until 2009, which slightly impacts Dwight's overall impressiveness.
Ben Golliver: I think Yao, unfortunately, will always be an overlooked oddity when we talk about the history of big men. Because of his outsider status and unprecedented size/skill set, Yao had Dirk Nowitzki's predicament of needing to win a title to justify (and explain) himself, only taken to a whole new level.
I just don't think he ever would inch his way into the American lineage without a ring or an MVP award (or two). It's just way too easy for history to trace from Abdul-Jabbar to Olajuwon (who gets a pass because he played for a high-profile college here in the States and went on to win rings) to Robinson to O'Neal to Howard. I'm not saying that's fair or how it should be, but I think that's his lot in life even if he had been healthier and 10%+ more productive.
Royce Young: There is an almost irrational thing about if a big man is truly good, he'll lead you to a title. But that's obviously not true. Patrick Ewing taught us that.
I really think if Yao had been fully healthy for 10 straight seasons, he'd have an MVP. Maybe not a title, but he'd have been one of the five scariest matchups night-to-night in the league.
Ben Golliver: Ewing is a great example because I just totally left him out of the lineage (because he didn't win a title when multiple people playing concurrently did?). He's the extraneous one in the Olajuwon/Robinson/Ewing trio, right? And he even had the biggest market team, plenty of deep playoff exposure and a high-profile American college to his advantage, which Yao didn't. Once a dominant center leads a team to a title post-Shaq, I think Yao is even more doomed.
If we're looking to spin a resolution somewhat positively, I think it's best to remember Yao as one of a kind than as one in a line.
Posted on: June 1, 2011 5:32 pm
Edited on: June 1, 2011 6:14 pm
Shaquille O'Neal's larger than life personality set him apart from the NBA's other great big men. Posted by Ben Golliver.
There are bits and pieces of all of the league’s premier big men in O’Neal. His dominance on offense was matched only by Wilt Chamberlain. The shattered backboards were Daryl Dawkins redux. His rebounding drew comparisons to Moses Malone, his shot-blocking instincts to Bill Russell. His jump hook wasn’t nearly as deadly as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s skyhook but he made it work. Ditto his footwork and short turnarounds, loosely and somewhat hopelessly co-opted from Hakeem Olajuwon. O'Neal has even carried the philanthropic torch passed down by David Robinson.
What O’Neal possessed that none of those big men had was a natural, authentic, instantaneous bond with both basketball media and fans. His goofy, oversized, larger-than-life persona made him the center of the NBA’s attention for more than a decade. It's quite possible that personality and his off-court exploits will come to define him even more than his on-court production.
When it comes to pure marketability, O’Neal was the heir to Michael Jordan, but with a key difference. “Be Like Mike” was the ultimate one-way road. Jordan was omnipresent and yet, oddly, inaccessible. The enduring image of Jordan is his competitive stare. He was an old-style hero in the Mt. Rushmore sense.
O’Neal was not that. He cast himself, against all odds, as the everyman. O’Neal never cared if he was carefully packaged or not. He helped turn the phrase “self-promoter” from a slur into a full-fledged business plan. He was who he was – whether you, or his critics, liked it or not. He rapped poorly on his own terms, appeared in terrible movies on his own terms, “sold out” to Hollywood and the Los Angeles Lakers on his own terms, shacked up with a reality TV star on his own terms and, through all of it, made himself appear totally accessible, on his own terms.
He was able to accomplish this because he developed a unique brand of fearlessness: He was never afraid of being the punchline because he was always in on the joke. O’Neal wasn’t burdened with the world that faced Russell. He never took himself too seriously or criticism too personally, like Abdul-Jabbar. He learned to deal with the attention his size and skill attracted without turning on the media or turning into a recluse, like so many big men that came before him. He defied every stereotype constructed for star NBA centers up to that point: he was too cuddly to be a freak; too happy to be a monster.
In doing so, O’Neal established himself as a super-sized superhero, paving the way for modern athletes to re-think their interactions with fans. An early adopter of Twitter, O’Neal, true to form, announced his retirement in a video appeal directly to his fans which, conveniently, helped get the video delivery service into headlines across the country. A shrewd marketer but one, always, without pretense.
If Jordan was the greatest manufactured NBA commodity of all time, O’Neal stands as the league's most effective self-promoter. Jordan’s aura sold you his shoes, underwear and sports drink; Shaq sold himself … and whatever products go along with him. Legions of professional athletes – across all sports – have followed his path. It feels like there's no turning back.
It’s a credit to O’Neal’s personality that we never tired of it. Despite the injury-plagued seasons, his weight problems, the endless string of nicknames –The Big Aristotle, Diesel, Shaq Fu, Big Daddy – and the regrettable forays into reality television, we can’t get enough, even after all these years.
O’Neal may be leaving the NBA but he’s not about to disappear from the planet. He will make sure of that. Shaq isn't going anywhere whether we like it or not.
Posted on: January 29, 2011 5:17 pm
Posted by Matt Moore
Before Kobe Bryant went 1-5 in "clutch time" last night (under 5 minutes, lead within 5) including two free throws, and before his Lakers lost to the lowly Kings at home, Bryant had himself another milestone in a career already filled with them. He passed Hakeem Olajuwon for 8th on the All-Time Scoring List. Here's how he did it.
So that's pretty neat for him. It's not every day you get to pass a legend like Olajuwon. Olajuwon is the kind of player you want to tell your kids about. We haven't seen a center like him in 12 years, a center with lightning quick footwork, perfect precision, and an array of offensive moves to make you dizzy. Sure, Shaq could just muscle you out of the way with his hind quarters, but Olajuwon was something else entirely. But don't take my words for it. Here's what Mamba had to say after the game.
"In my opinion, he's the best post player ever," Bryant said. "With all due respect to [Kevin] McHale, Hakeem was phenomenal."via Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant passes Hakeem Olajuwon for 8th on NBA all-time scoring list - ESPN Los Angeles.
Hakeem, humble, considerate guy that he is (he was not earlier in his career, but his deepening of his ties to Islam seemed to impact him significantly) offered to talk to Lakers.com about what Bryant, and his status in the game:
People always compare Kobe with Michael Jordan, and that’s the highest level of achievement right there. Even being mentioned with MJ is the ultimate compliment. When Jordan retired, you just thought a player like that wouldn’t come along again. But then Kobe almost immediately drew those comparisons, and that says it all. He established his own identity as one of the best players to ever play the game.via LAKERS: Hakeem Olajuwon on Kobe.
Pretty hefty praise from one of the all time greats, and on point too.
Bryant and the Lakers face off against the Celtics on Sunday.
Posted on: January 6, 2011 7:43 pm
Dwight Howard has an improved jumper which Stan Van Gundy says is more due to Patrick Ewing than Hakeem Olajuwon.
Posted by Matt Moore
When Dwight Howard revealed he was training with Hakeem Olajuwon this summer, the general reaction from NBA media types was "Finally!" Finally Howard would get the offensive training he has so sorely missed in his career. There was even video of The Dream teaching Howard moves like the spin-to-the-middle fadeaway jumper. And when Howard displayed an actual real-life jumper this season, great celebration was given for Howard being willing to work with the great Hakeem Olajuwon and get the instruction he needed.
Well, Stan Van Gundy isn't so cool with that perception.
Van Gundy Wednesday made the following comments to NBA FanHouse:
Van Gundy was asked after the game about the improvement in the offensive game of center Dwight Howard, and his expanded shot selection this season. The question just referenced Howard's workout session this summer in Houston with Olajuwon, the former basketball great.
via Stan Van Gundy Dishes Out Digs on Heat, Hakeem Olajuwon -- NBA FanHouse.
Ewing has been under fire for the lack of Howard's development for years, and people were quick to attribute his improvement to Olajuwon. That's probably in part because of the historic perspective of Olajuwon versus Ewing when they played, particularly the '94 Finals when the Dream worked Ewing over on his way to a championship. But of course that has nothing to do with either's ability as a coach or trainer, and as Ewing is a head coach candidate on a Finals-contending team (kind of), it's probably right to be reasonable about how much Hakeem really contributed to Howard's improvement.
And then there are the numbers themselves. Howard has improved inside ten feet, from 44% to 50%, thanks to that improved jumper. And that's what's important. But it should be noted that his numbers at the rim, from 10-15 feet and from 16-23 feet are all worse than last season. Worse still, Howard is shooting a career low from the free throw line. Something in his mechanics which Ewing works with has to impact that.
The answer to all of this is that Howard seems like he's made significant improvements, scoring a career high (although only .7 points better per 40 minutes better than his previous career mark of 23.1 in 2009. But digging deeper, we're still left wanting, which begs the question of what exactly we're throwing around credit for in the first place.
Posted on: October 7, 2010 11:30 am
Posted by Royce Young
Last season, Kobe Bryant made some headlines because he spent time working with Hakeem Olajuwon. And once people saw the dividends of Bryant's work with Hakeem (for instance, Kobe scored in post-ups more than most power forwards or centers - it's true, I have a Synergy account) there was one question most had: Why in the heck is Dwight Howard not doing the exact same thing?
Well, question answered. Because as Howard put it, he's now learning from Master Splinter.
My first thought is, "How good does Hakeem still look? My goodness, I feel like he could still be good today." My second one is, "If Dwight Howard actually starts getting some of this stuff, oh my."
Olajuwon showed Howard a few staple moves and if you watch, it's all about footwork. Hakeem's is legendary and most credit that to him playing soccer, not basketball, growing up. Howard doesn't have bad footwork. It's more about his touch. But good feet and sharp moves can eliminate a lot of the need for good touch around the basket. Sometimes you make a move so good it's almost impossible not to score.
There's only so much Howard can take from three days of training with The Dream. But that's a whole heck of a lot more knowledge than he had before. Howard may be somewhat transformed this year, but that comes down to him taking the principles he learned with him and continuing to work on them. He can't expect three days of training to make him into Hakeem Olajuwon.
But if Howard starts getting even a little bit of it? Again, oh my.