On Tuesday evening, I settled into my media row seat next to David Thorpe for Game 3 of the NBA Finals. I always like to pick Thorpe's brain, so I asked him a question along the lines of "if you start your career looking like Dwight Howard, can you evolve to be a really efficient post scorer?"
It was like Thorpe had been waiting for me. Immediatley he hit me with a hail of refutations. He challenged me to say why I thought Howard didn't have much of a post-game. The truth is that some of his moves end up looking a bit wooden. But let's be honest -- so do lots of big men.
Thorpe made the point that every time Howard catches the ball against the Lakers, he's surrounded by two, three, or four players. One of them, Pau Gasol, is a master of taking the charge. When Howard catches the ball in the post, there is a lot to worry about beyond completing certain steps. And nevertheless, the vast majority of the time he makes a good play, whether with the pass, a post move, or by drawing a foul.
Thorpe made this case, and then we watched Game 3. It was so true: Howard's every post move is greeted with a hailstorm of Laker help defense. Nevertheless he scores efficiently. Single coverage would be a huge mistake.
The one thing Howard really does not do much is shoot jumpers. But everyone seems to think he's capable of that, too.
Adonal Foyle knows Howard's post moves as well as anybody, as he guards Howard in practice day in and day out. In the latest edition of his TrueHoop Video Playoff Journal, Foyle goes into some detail explaining the facets of Howard's post game:
By the way, when Foyle says that Howard has a tendency to want to dunk everything, it's worth pointing out that he has resisted that urge almost all series long. Howard himself explained to the media on Wednesday:
I don't know if you've been watching all the series, but I don't think there's been but a couple of plays where I've tried to overpower people. I think one of the shots that I really developed over the course of the playoffs and even during the year is the running hook. So I understand that I'm not going to be able to overpower my way and just use my physical ability for 20 some years to play in this league. I understand that.
But at the same time, I'm 23. Each year if you want to become a great player, you have to add something to your game. I think the running hook for me is something that I've added, and it's taken a lot of wear and tear off my legs by doing that instead of trying to overpower and dunk on people the whole game. For this series I haven't dunked the ball very much, so I don't think I've been doing a lot of overpowering. I think it's been more finesse, as you would call it.
Like I said to him and the other guys, each series is different. Last series I was able to do more with running hooks, and this series is different.