27 August 2007

Dwight Howard Is Struggling...

... in the FIBA Tournament of the Americas, which continues tonight at 11:00 EST as the United States takes on Mexico and its "Cuarenta Minutos de Infierno" press defense.

The United States has cruised to big victories over inferior competition throughout this Olympic qualifying tournament, but it's largely due to Carmelo Anthony's ability to score at will and Kobe Bryant's ability to shut down the opponent's best player. The team's centers -- Howard, Amaré Stoudemire, and Tyson Chandler -- have not been significant factors in any of the games.

Since this is a Magic blog, I'm inclined to focus on Howard's struggles and to leave Stoudemire and Chandler for the rest of the blogosphere. Dwight just doesn't look sharp. He looks confused and uncomfortable, especially offensively. Much of it has to do with not being the focus of the offense. With the Magic, he gets the ball on the low-block on virtually every possession; with Team USA, he's relegated to pick-setting, board-crashing, and shot-blocking duties.

Dwight Howard doing what he does best: rebound.
Photo by Gary Williams of FIBA

His picks haven't looked great, and his rolling to the basket has been even more awkward. But since Tony Battie is usually the guy setting picks for the Magic, I'm not overly concerned with Dwight's apparent lack of skill there. What bothers me is his rebounding. He's averaging 4.8 boards per game, which isn't bad, but he's had difficulty hanging on to rebounds he should be able to take easily. Balls bounce right to him, then ricochet off his hands and out-of-bounds. The same thing happens when he tries to receive entry passes. Apparently, bobbled balls don't count as turnovers in international competition, because Howard has only two turnovers to his name in 65 minutes of action. My rough estimate of dropped rebounds and entry passes for which Dwight is responsible is 6 or 7. He's going to need to tune-up before the NBA season starts; otherwise, he's in danger of leading the league in total turnovers... again.

It's not all bad news for Dwight, though. He's had a few spectacular dunks, and he leads Team USA with eight blocked shots, including this nasty swat of Venezuela's Greivis Vasquez:

Not in my house!
Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler, NBA Entertainment

Additionally, his job as the Magic's center got a bit easier today with the official signing of Marcin Gortat, the Magic's 2005 second-round draft pick who has spent a few years getting seasoned overseas. His arrival brings the Magic's roster to 14 players, meaning the team will likely have that last spot open for the start of training camp.

Dwight Howard's showdown with Magic teammate Carlos Arroyo and his Puerto Rico squad will take place tomorrow night at 11:00 EST.

1 comment:


I noticed Dwight fumble the ball a few times; but there has been nothing I've seen that I've been concerned about...besides the normal struggles on the free throw line (12-20).

But you make it sound like he isn't playing well.

What I’ve seen... I see Dwight looking just as active as anyone on the floor. He's involved on both ends of the floor, often because he makes himself a factor. Whenever he is given the ball, opposing teams just foul him. But how could they not; he's shooting over .70% from the field. You also mentioned rebounds... I admit, it's not like he's been dominating the boards, but 5 rebounds in 15 minutes of play is about his average if you calculate that over 40 minutes of play. To me, he's been impressive because of how active he's been, especially considering he's the last option on the floor. In playing only 15 minutes a game, he's got 4 steals, blocked 8 shots, and changed how many more than that.

I guess I'm just not worried about Dwight. He did have a poor game against Brazil, but he got into foul trouble.

The biggest thing still with Dwight is he needs to get his free throw shooting up. He's shooting .60% right now, and he needs to at least be .70%.