Kareem Abdul-Jabbar says Dwight Howard on learning curve

first_img“I absolutely do not think he is a stupid young man,” Abdul-Jabbar said in an interview with this newspaper. “I don’t know how to speak Chinese. But that doesn’t make me stupid. But in that particular area, though, I’m ignorant. I know very little Chinese. In the area of playing basketball at the highest level, Dwight has things to learn. I’m sorry that I have to say it in those terms. But he has things to learn. He’s not stupid. But if the way he played last season is what we have to judge him by, he still has a number of things to learn about the game.”In his lone season with the Lakers, Howard still averaged 17 points on 57.8 percent shooting and a league-leading 12.4 rebounds per game. But those marked his lowest numbers he posted since the 2006-07 season, a product both of a diminished role and season-long issues with his surgically repaired back and torn labrum in his right shoulder. Howard also experienced adversity through his annoyance with Kobe Bryant’s leadership style, how Mike D’Antoni’s offense featured him, his belief that few helped him out enough on defense and his 49 percent free-throw shooting.Abdul-Jabbar was mostly supportive of Howard after the two met shortly following his arrival here. But months before Howard’s departure, Abdul-Jabbar told this newspaper that Howard “needs a change in attitude.”Things didn’t change, though. Howard had testy exchanges with Steve Nash over passes and defensive rotations. Howard showed frustration when San Antonio’s Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter persistently fronted him during the Lakers’ first-round series against the Spurs. Howard then was ejected in his final game as a Laker. Abdul-Jabbar looked at those performances and juxtaposed it with Memphis Grizzlies center, Marc Gasol, the brother of Lakers forward Pau Gasol.“He consistently makes plays on both ends of the court that help his team win basketball games,” said Abdul-Jabbar about Gasol, who won last year’s NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year award. “He knows what to do and when to do it. That’s what I call high basketball IQ and he has skills. He can pass the ball, make free throws, box out and rebound. He can do all the things you need to do to give your team the greatest chance to win. That’s who I want as a center on my team if I’m a GM. Dwight was lacking that. I’m sorry.”Except he wasn’t.“He shouldn’t have taken it that way,” Abdul-Jabbar said of Howard. “It definitely was not a personal attack.”Abdul-Jabbar also sounded skeptical about the Lakers.“They might make the playoffs, but I don’t know if they’re going to go really far in the playoffs,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “You have to have a really competitive team. They might surprise people and they have that potential. But it’s definitely a wait and see kind of situation.”Namely, when’s Kobe Bryant going to return from a left Achilles tendon? He has progressed toward running, but neither he nor the Lakers have shared a timeline on when he’ll actually step on a basketball court. With his admission that he still needs to improve his conditioning, it appears less and less likely Bryant will play in the season opener Oct. 29 against the Clippers at Staples Center. “Kobe’s not going to be able to play up to his standards that we know maybe for some time, maybe not ever,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “We have to get our heads around that and not rush him and give him all the time he needs so he can make the most effective comeback. It’s going to take a while. That’s a very difficult injury to come back from when you rupture your Achilles tendon.”Abdul-Jabbar has other things on his mind beyond opining on his former team. Most importantly, he’s reported he’s fully healthy nearly four years after being diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia. He and actor Robert Hays recently reprised their roles in the 1980 comedy “Airplane” by filming scenes in a cockpit for a Wisconsin Department of Tourism commercial. And Abdul-Jabbar just released “Sasquatch in the Paint,” his eighth book illustrating his love both for the written word and his interest in a variety of subjects. Abdul-Jabbar has co-authored autobiographies (Giant Steps, Kareem), history (Black Profiles in Courage, Brothers in Arms), sports (A Season on the Reservation, On the Shoulders of Giants) and children’s books (What Color is My World). His latest one falls under the latter category and features a character named Theo, a middle school aged boy who struggles with a drastic growth spurt, excelling in basketball and mastering the science club. Abdul-Jabbar went through similar struggles.“When I was in the sixth grade, I grew past my dad’s height and was six feet tall. Some people thought that if you were as tall as an adult, they’d expect you to be older and more mature. And you’re not,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “Dealing with this and talking about my experiences, I can put it out there for kids to read the book. Then they won’t feel so alone and alienated where they feel like, ‘Jeez, I’m the only person that this has ever happened to.’”How did Abdul-Jabbar overcome it?“I was able to do well in school and I kept getting better at basketball,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “I wasn’t great, but I kept learning. It’s trial and error. You put the emphasis on fixing the errors, you get through it.”Clearly, Abdul-Jabbar believes Howard hasn’t done enough to do that. Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Errorcenter_img These two giants once greeted each other with affection and praise.Lately, though, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Dwight Howard have taken issue with each other’s public comments.Abdul-Jabbar, the former Lakers center who won five of his six NBA titles during the Showtime Era, appeared earlier this month on ESPN’s First Take, saying that Howard’s “basketball IQ is not up to speed.” Howard scoffed to reporters about the criticism, arguing some of it roots in him leaving the Lakers this offseason to the Houston Rockets. He added, “You can’t win three Defensive Player of the Year trophies and be stupid.”Abdul-Jabbar actually agrees with Howard. Well, kind of.last_img

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *