On Friday, Lakers legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar appeared on the television show First Take and blasted Rockets center Dwight Howard and his game.
“Dwight is an extraordinary athlete, he has incredible athletic ability, but basketball is a game where the most important muscle you use on the court is the one between your ears. Dwight's basketball IQ is not up to speed for him to be a dominant player. He has problems at both ends of the court, he doesn't have a go-to move. I had to prepare Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum to play against Dwight in the playoffs in 2009 for the World Championship and it was an easy job, because if you take certain things away from him he doesn't have an answer for it. So he needs to develop some skills, at both ends of the court, that would enable him to consistently contribute to a winning effort, and he hasn't done that.”
At practice Friday, Howard responded, via CSN Houston:
“Well you know, I don't pay any attention to that stuff,” Howard said on Friday just off the floor of the Toyota Center. “I did hear about it but everybody is entitled to their own opinion. When I joined the Lakers, I was the greatest center and then when I left, I was the worst, mentally I wasn't capable of playing center. I understand that a lot of things are said out of emotion but I would say that if he has anything to say, I'm here in Houston. We can talk man to man. That's how I feel about it.”
So what made the Hall-of-Famer bash the new Rockets' big man? Well, Howard has a theory.
“I mean, it's emotion and the fact that I left the Lakers. It is what it is,” Howard said. “I'm in a great place right now. And there's no need for me to go back and forth with him. The one thing I would say is that he's old enough that whatever I do, doesn't even matter to him.
"I mean, he's Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. If I'm Kareem, I'm like ‘why?' Four championships, five championships, whatever. I've been in Airplane, did movies with Bruce Lee. I'm not worried about the young whippersnappers, you know. Just wish him good luck. But people do things different and when I'm done playing I'm going to do whatever I can to help the next generation get better.”
One of the main criticisms of Howard from Abdul-Jabbar involved Howard's basketball IQ. On Friday, Howard had a chance to respond to the shot about his smarts on the court.
“Well you can't win three Defensive Player of the Year trophies and be stupid,” he said. “It just doesn't happen. In a row, you can't do that. And I don't think any coach that has ever coached me has ever said anything about me having a low IQ for basketball. Have I done some dumb stuff on the court before? Every player has. Have we all done something stupid in life? Yes. It's life, we make mistakes, we learn from them. It is what it is. I think I'm very intelligent when it comes to this game of basketball. I've been playing since I was 3 years old. I've seen a lot and each year I get smarter and better.”
I'm... I'm confused. Howard didn't do a terrible impression. He didn't make some ridiculous joke. He didn't even insult Kareem, knowing that the title gap between the two players would never allow him to look good. He just provided a well-reasoned response with respect and focused on how he's moving on.
I don't know what to do with a Dwight Howard that isn't constantly making me facepalm.
It's a great response from Howard, and it's also a curious set of criticisms from Kareem. Kareem's block numbers are great, but reading back through any objective book or article on him, and you'll hear teammates and other players in the league talk about how Kareem didn't like to guard tough, physical players. He was taller than everyone else, and that's awesome, and he had an unstoppable set of offensive moves that lead him to the NBA's all-time scoring title. No one thinks Dwight Howard is a better player than him or ever will be. But they also did very different things.
Either way, if this is the new Dwight Howard we get in Houston, sign me up. And maybe Kareem should stick to desperately trying to get a head coaching job and consantly feuding with the Lakers over a perceived lack of respect from the organization.