Magic center Dwight Howard spent about 45 minutes after Thursday’s practice working with assistant coach Patrick Ewing on the newest wrinkle in his developing game — the outside shot.
Howard hoisted up shots from everywhere — from bank shots from the wing to jump shots at the top of the key to turnaround, fade-away jumpers from the corner — and boy did he look good.
Tuesday night against the Rockets, Howard hit two bank shot jumpers, and after the work he put into them Thursday, it’s probably safe to assume he’ll take a couple Friday against Indiana too. And as long as he’s making a smart choice by shooting instead of driving, head coach Stan Van Gundy is OK with it.
“I thought they were the right read,” Van Gundy said of Howard’s jumpers against the Rockets. “He opened up, and Yao stayed back basically just waiting to meet him on the drive, so he made two in a row. Then Yao took a step out, and [Howard] went right by him.
“I thought he was making the right reads [and] making the right plays and thats all you can ask. Some nights the ball goes in, [and] some nights it doesn’t, but he was making the right plays.”
Howard wasn’t about to call himself a changed man after just two jump shots, but he acknowledged that his hard work was beginning to pay off — mostly because it had to.
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“I just made some shots, and I’m just going to keep shooting,” Howard said. “If you work on stuff, it’s going to happen for you sooner or later. Am I happy? No I’m just going to keep doing what I do. I’ve just got to play the game.”
Magic shooting guard Vince Carter played with Hakeem Olajuwon in Toronto during Olajuwon’s last NBA season, and Carter says he can see the improvement in Howard from working with Olajuwon this summer.
“Look at his jump shot,” Carter said of Howard. “He’s creating space, and I think it’ll pay off down the line. I don’t care how old he was, [Olajuwon’s] post game was incredible.”
Van Gundy also said Howard’s new moves will help him evade the double teams that he’ll see on a nightly basis.
“It gives him a weapon as double teams are coming to be able to turn away from it and get a shot up without having the double team always take him out and things like that,” Van Gundy said. “I think it’s always better, and he continues to work at it, and he continues to play hard on the defensive end so I certainly couldn’t have any complaints.”
And that’s the key.
Van Gundy has no qualms about Howard expanding his game, as long as Howard maintains his focus in the aspects of the game that are most important to the team.
“It’s great to work and try to expand your game, and I think that’ll make him a better player in the long run, and thats great,” Van Gundy said. “As long as he keeps his focus at the defensive end of the floor and rebounding, as long as he understands — which I’m sure he does. I see no evidence that he doesn’t — as long as he understands that those are the two most important things for us, then it’s great to work, and he’s been working hard.”