Hakeem: Howard is ‘ready’ for an MVP-type season

Dwight Howard and Hakeem Olajuwon

Hakeem Olajuwon (left) has seen Dwight Howard’s game mature and grow of late. (Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images)

At least one former MVP doesn’t think it should have taken a broken bone in Kevin Durant’s foot to throw the 2015 MVP race wide open.

According to Hakeem Olajuwon, Dwight Howard was already prepared to kick the door down.

“He’s healthy. He’s strong. He’s ready,” said Olajuwon, who won the award in 1994 when he led the Rockets to the first of their back-to-back championships. “Now it’s about having the attitude to go out every night and dominate.”

The Hall of Famer officially rejoined his former team as a player development specialist after Howard signed a free agent contract with the Rockets in July 2013 and recently concluded his second training camp stint working with the All-Star center before returning to his home in Amman, Jordan. Prior to the start of camp, Olajuwon had not worked with Howard since the end of last season.

“He’s older, more mature and you can tell that he is feeling better physically,” Olajuwon said. “I like what I saw. He is a very hard worker. He takes the job seriously and you can see that he has used some of the things we talked about last season and is making them part of his game.”

Howard averaged 18.3 points, 12.2 rebounds and 1.8 blocked shots in his first season with the Rockets and Olajuwon thinks the 28-year-old was just scratching the surface as he regained fitness.

“It was a good start, but last year Dwight was still trying to recover from the back surgery and to feel like himself again,” said Olajuwon. “I think a lot of people don’t appreciate what it is like for an athlete to have a back injury. It is serious. It is a challenge.

“I could see last year when I worked with him in camp that there were some things that he could not do. Or they were things that he did not think he could do. The difference now is that he is fit and those doubts are gone. This is the player who can go back to being the best center in the league and the kind of player that can lead his team to a championship. I think he should be dominant at both ends of the floor.”

Olajuwon is the only player in NBA history to be named MVP of the regular season, Defensive Player of the Year and Finals MVP in the same season when he led the Rockets in 1994 and pulled the wagon again as Finals MVP when Houston repeated in 1995. He and Michael Jordan are the only players to win all three awards in their career.

Olajuwon doesn’t believe there is any reason the Rockets, who finished as the No. 4 seed in the West and were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by Portland last spring, should fall back, even with the departure of rotation players Chandler Parsons, Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik.

“They have Dwight and they have James Harden,” he said. “That is two of the best players at their positions in the league. Those two can lead. Those two can do enough. You don’t need to have All-Stars at every position.

“The Rockets will need good play from some young players and from others who will be getting their chance to be key players for the first time in their careers. But when we won our first championship in 1994, we had Sam Cassell, who was a rookie, playing at the end of games and making a difference. When we won in 1995, we had Clyde (Drexler). But we also had Pete Chilcutt in the starting lineup and Chucky Brown and Charles Jones stepping up off the bench.

“When you have Howard and Harden, you have two players who can do much of the scoring. What you need are others to not try to do too much. Just concentrate on doing your job and coming to play every night.”

It begins and ends with Howard.

“We all know that center is the key position in the game,” Olajuwon said. “Everything should go through you — offense and defense and the right mentality. If the center is thinking about dominating, the team can go far, can go all the way.

“I played at a time when were so many players that could win the MVP each year — Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Charles Barkley, Karl Malone. It meant you weren’t going to win the MVP every year. But you had to play like an MVP and have your name in the conversation. I believe that’s where Dwight is now. He is healthy. He is physically fit. He is strong. He wants to win.

“It is about attitude. He should have a season that makes everyone vote for him as MVP. If that happens, they should be contenders for the championship. I believe that. Now they have to believe it.”

VIDEO: Hakeem Olajuwon schools Dwight Howard on post moves back in 2010


  1. bballwiz says:

    “Olajuwon joined Michael Jordan as the only two players in NBA history to be named MVP of the regular season, Defensive Player of the Year and Finals MVP in the same season when he led the Rockets in 1994 and pulled the wagon again as Finals MVP when Houston repeated in 1995.”

    Uh.. Mr. Blinebury, Michael Jordan didn’t win Defensive Player of the Year in any season that Bulls won the championship.He won the award in 1988, but MJ became a Finals MVP in 1991 when he led the Bulls over Magic’s Lakers. Then Jordan never won the DPOY award again, but he earned 5 more Finals MVP’s.

    Get your facts straight.

  2. SYDALE says:

    Howard’s going to have to average at least 24 ppg, 12 rbpg, and 3 blkpg and the Rockets have to win 52 games for him to be an MVP candidate

  3. kevin says:

    Dwight Howard is a punk and will never be anything else in his life.Houston you can forget about contending for a title as long as this loser is on your roster,Looooooooser

  4. Rolexander Muana says:

    He may be the best center on the NBA on paper but he needs to check his attitude first. The best players doesnt complain where he is very good at.

  5. Zacula says:

    Hakeem is a well-respected and well-deserved basketball icon…. He had the heart, IQ, skill, strength, and desire to win.
    Howard wont finish in the top-5 MVP voting… even with Durant injured! Howard has lots of strength and some skill. Not enough.

  6. Drago says:

    The NBA is full of talents and freaks of nature but a Tim Dunkan or Hakim don’t come often.Dwight obviously lifts weights and trains his body but his basketball skill is the same it was years and years ago.

  7. Absolute says:

    Howard will never win a championship with Harden playing defence with the force of a wet tissue.

  8. aaa says:

    He should average 20+ pts a game this year, since parsons and lin are gone, but its very unlikely that he will have an mvp season.

  9. d12 says:

    Dwight Needs to just take more shots like how he did in his orlando days, that will boost his confidence and he will improve and return to his Orlando Magic Form and get 40pt 20 rebound nights like he used to. Btw this is wishful thinking lol

  10. bdackkgotem says:

    Lol Hakeem named everybody but Kenny the jet lmao😂 😂 😂

  11. fredgb21 says:

    Uh, I don’t think Howward will even be the best center. I think Drummond will have clearly overtaken him by the end of this season. Drummond averaged 19 & 18 for the final month of last season and may have posted up about 10 times the whole month. He just scores easily whenever he gets his hands on the ball. And if you watched him this preseason you can tell he’s clearly developing post game quickly.

  12. Silent says:

    I think that Hakeem has more chances than Howard to win the MVP if he comes back this year. Howard has zero bball IQ and zero winning attitude. He may learn a couple of plays but he’s not even in the top 25 to get the MVP.

  13. Brain32 says:

    I see some people have really short memory. Anybody remembers which team was in the NBA finals in 2009 and what roster did Dwight have around him, that was BIG. Dwight has it like it or not…

  14. doesntmatter says:

    In order to win he first need to reduce his laugh on the court… To me it feels he is here for laugh, ofcourse you need some laugh, but it feels he has zero basketball anger, just jokes, laugh, and cry like a baby all the time, big baby.. lots of petencial, but ….

  15. peralez2383 says:

    I thought Dwight would be the next Shaq, I was dead wrong

  16. SourPatch says:

    I think he’ll frfr step up this season cause it’s really hard in the west and he’s probably tired of being overshadowed in the playoffs. Just think if he hits a lot of free throws, that’s like 26 points right there LOL.

  17. 7bigal7 says:

    I have not figured out why most people hate Dwight Howard. He is a very good player and would be a BIG plus on ANY NBA team. I also believe that he is capable of winning MVP or be very much in the running.

    • Carl says:

      I can help explain this.

      When you become a really good player or “superstar” (a term I try not to use), the expectations change. You’re expected to compete for championships.

      Dwight’s issue is that he’s never been that superstar. He wants to be paid like one, and he wants to be seen as one without living up to those expectations. He has never proven that he can be the go-to guy every night on your team. At best, he’s been a complimentary player, but not one you can build your team around.

  18. Prince Darashkoh says:

    Go for it!!! Even though I’m not a fan of the Houston Rockets, It’ll do wonders for my Fantasy Squad if Dwight can dominate like he used to in Orlando (My Team). If He is even a consideration for MVP this season, my team is going to be unstoppable. But I think the MVP will go to someone totally unexpected this season. I don’t know yet…maybe Anthony Davis or James Harden but I don’t think Lebron, KD, nor Melo will win this year. An unexpected fella is going to win it this season. Mark my words.

  19. James says:

    Hahaha.. I don’t think so!!

  20. Lovinthenba says:

    Ohh please.. Who are u kidding? Howard will never come close to being an MVP. Demarcus and Davis are the best two centers in the league. Just check it this upcoming season. Period.

  21. dotanamous says:

    D Howard will NEVER come close to being a H.Olajuwon caliber player. His basketball IQ no where near Olajuwons, his footwork doesn’t compare, and he doesn’t have nowhere as nice of a midrange jumper nor his touch around the basket.

    • U are an idiot says:

      dude seriously. obviously not, but Dwight could be an mvp. it is obvious that this era is not as hard as Hakeems

  22. lakerslakerslakers says:

    let the game do the talking

  23. Dessert11Eagle says:

    This Howard back injury thing is old. This will be his 3rd season since then. Sad excuse for last season’s mediocre performance.

    Developing the moves now he should have developed in his 2nd, 3rd, & 4th seasons… Oh. Howard is serious? He is older and more mature? It only took him 10 years to get there. Kobe tried to teach Howard a winners attitude and Howard rejected the idea. He Wanted to have his own style of winning.

    Howards best years are behind him. He should have gotten serious years ago.

  24. john says:

    Hakeem still looks like he’s in great shape

  25. Alex says:

    Howard has been “poised for an MVP-type season” for years now. Every off season there is hype about how he’s worked out with Hakeem and Ewing and Kareem and how he’s going to be dominant in the post and every season we see the same ol Howard in the post that still doesn’t have a go-to move.

  26. Adam says:

    Jordan never won mvp, dpoy and finals mvp in the same season

  27. deematthew14 says:

    I believe in Dwight Howard, i know he has the ability to get this MVP award this year, or maybe collect another DPOY award… i love watching him dominate defensively and offensively, he’s a great player no question about it…

  28. NBA2K says:

    Attitude. That’s been his problem since Orlando. Kobe implied he doesn’t have the attitude it takes to win, which is a major reason they clashed. He has to buy into the system he’s in, play his part, but most of all take the game seriously. it’s great to joke around with teammates, etc. but not before a game. Get your mind in the right place. you need to be ruthless and relentless to win a championship. The “having fun” above all else mentality makes you complacent. If you’re satisfied with having fun, you won’t try your hardest to win. I have some experience with this personally and from others’ who try to put fun above winning when it comes to competition.

    • T gas TT ako says:

      ALLELUAH!!!! BROTHER!!!!! howard can really dominate “IF” he really wants to,,, he just doesnt have the ryt “MINDSET” ,,, and the bad thing is ryt now even hes partner HARDEN is on the same platform as he is,, plus they have THEIR coach ryt now,,, TSK TSK TSK!!!!!!!!

  29. Mickey says:

    Is Howard had a mindset like mj kobe Tim Duncan, he would be the best player in the game. But his poor attitude has held him back. In LA, Dwight would sometimes refuse to run the pick and roll if it wasn’t working his way and would just post up. Dwight only plays for stats but he is a monster on the backboards

  30. lbjday says:

    Center is not the most important position in the nba its the guy that handles and
    Penatrates the ball meaning pg.i do agree that its hard to find a center that has the wwork ethnics and physicall as howard( im sure theirs none) if houston can get an elite pg ill put them as the top dog of the west. No ifs no taking my words back nothing.with a great pg this team is SHOWTIME!! With that being said get RAJON RONDO houston!!!

  31. nba2015 says:

    Interesting article, however Fran Blinebury needs to get his facts straight. Hakeem is the only player in nba history to win MVP, Finals MVP and Defensive Player of the year during the same season back in 1994. Jordan won the defensive player of the year award back in 1988. Never won it during the 90s. You would think sports journalist do a better job of keeping track of the history of this game. Any way its good to see Dwight Howard healthy and I wish him the best of luck for the upcoming season.

  32. ExilD says:

    Thanks Hakeem, I liked D12 progress last year and dominance in the playoff, hope his teammate will rise. He is a good guy on and off the court

  33. harriethehawk says:

    Maybe he needs a different type of coaching style. I though Stan Van Gundy was good. He told him just get rebounds and block shots.

  34. Gary says:

    Brought to you by Dwight Howard’s marketing team.

  35. TTKIN says:

    Ok Hakeem is a legend, so I have to respect his opinion.

    But using the words “mature” and “serious” to describe Dwight is like using the words “white man” and “failure as a basketball player” to describe Michael Jordan.

    • TTKIN says:

      Also, maybe Hakeem should talk to the team he works for…

      They nearly dismantled their whole team trying to get more superstars, and here is Hakeem saying “u don’t need stars at every position, u need guys to step up. Harden and Dwight can do most of the scoring”.

      Maybe if he said that prior to the offseason, they would still have a good team, instead of 2 guys and a bunch of nobodies around them. Beverley might play good D, but not O. And Ariza magically only plays well when his contract is expiring.

  36. DaAwesome1 says:

    Hey! What’s up with the 8.9 rebounds?!?

  37. TheKush says:

    I’ll believe it when I see it! I don’t doubt Howards ability I doubt his attitude! He doesn’t look like he has it in him to be a champion however I do think he’s a future hall of famer he’s a great defender around the basket!