Howard relishes playing for 'big man coach' McHale
MANILA -- Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard is relishing the chance to play for his new coach Kevin McHale, who was known for his plethora of post moves while starring for the Boston Celtics in the 1980s.
Howard signed with the Rockets in the off-season and has since spent his summer training and working on his game with McHale.
"It's great, we've been training together all summer. I really enjoy him. He's a great guy and a great coach," Howard told local media on Wednesday after the Rockets' practice for the NBA Global Games.
"We have the same beliefs," Howard said of McHale. "We understand that the bigs have to dominate the paint, and that's what I'm gonna do."
Howard moved to Houston after a difficult season with the Los Angeles Lakers last year, one that saw him struggle with back and shoulder injuries. He also had adjust to the system of coach Mike D'Antoni, who replaced Mike Brown after the Lakers had a poor start to the season.
"Last season's over with," said Howard. "I feel a lot better than I did physically, and I'm looking forward to this season."
McHale acknowledged that Howard is still improving but stressed that the big man will not all of a sudden become "Hakeem Olajuwon or Kevin McHale."
"We worked on a lot of stuff. It's a matter of him (Howard) taking what we worked on and what he gets comfortable with. You teach, you go over, you work on a lot of stuff, and he's got to incorporate that into his game," said McHale. "Dwight is not gonna turn into Hakeem Olajuwon or Kevin McHale. He is gonna turn into Dwight Howard."
"Everybody does things just a little bit differently, so he's got to incorporate that into his game and only do what he's very comfortable with," he added.
McHale does want to see Howard take advantage of his speed and athleticism more this season, especially since he is a lot healthier now that he was last year.
"I think one of the big things from last year and this year is that he's healthy again," said the coach. "So he's got to work hard on staying healthy, staying flexible, making sure his back stays as good as he can possibly be."
"I think he's got to use his speed more because I just think that is his best quality as a big man, his speed. And if he can play that speed game, it will help all of us," he added.
Filipino fans can see how Howard has improved his game on Thursday, when the three-time Defensive Player of the Year and the rest of the Rockets face off against the Indiana Pacers in the first ever preseason game to be held in the Philippines.