Ah, Houston. Last road game of the season, but I hope that Blake and DeAndre return to visit you soon. If I had it my way, you’d be this year’s summer home for the two young Clipper Bigs. No, your humidity isn’t that alluring, nor the location by the Gulf. It’s something else. Houston, you’re the home of the legendary center, Hakeem Olajuwon.
For some, Hakeem is just a name, even if it’s a great name, so please check out some of his videos. Even if you remember Hakeem, watching him again is a treat.
Here’s Hakeem explaining his legendary “Dream Shake.” Imagine if Blake had this in his repertoire.
And Hakeem was amazing on defense.
Didn’t matter if it was weakside or man on man, Hakeem had that unique ability to get his hand on the ball. And when he did block the shot, rarely was the ball batted out of bounds to be given back to the team.
The Olajuwon renaissance can be credited to Kobe Bryant, who, recognizing his declining athleticism, developed a supremely deft post game to allow him to age gracefully. Bryant, despite playing in his fifteenth season, is posting season averages right in line with his career averages.
But Bryant’s ability to adapt isn’t so much a surprise as manifest destiny. If Olajuwon wasn’t there, Bryant would have found someone else. What has been even more impressive has been the staggering offensive improvement of Dwight Howard. After relying on little more than dunks and a mediocre lefty hook for years, Howard made a significant offensive leap this year.
Dwight is averaging 23.1 points per game, the most he has averaged in his career by 2.5 points, and he has still maintained his efficiency. He still shoots around 60 percent from the field on 13.5 touches per game. Astonishing numbers.
Here’s Olajuwon teaching Dwight Howard. Dwight might be a bit goofy, the whole asian-voiced sensei bit seems slightly contrived, but that doesn’t detract from the fact that Hakeem is, still, a master of post moves.
Book those tickets back to Houston, Blake and DeAndre, because that’s where you should study in the summer.
Keys to the Game
– DeAndre’s home cooking. In three games against his hometown team, DeAndre Jordan has averaged 10 points, 13.7 rebounds and 2.7 blocks. That’s a huge improvement over his season averages of 6.9 points, 7.1 rebounds and 1.7 blocks. Another one of DeAndre’s big nights and the Clippers will have a better chance to beat the Rockets.
– The quick-witted Blake Griffin. Just like he has done against Tyson Chandler, Blake Griffin has improved his play against Chuck Hayes. In the last matchup, Griffin went for 20 points on 7 for 12 shooting with 14 rebounds and 5 assists, playing a lot out of the high post, which allowed him to get easy shots in the 6-13 foot range, as well as dish out assists at will. Chuck Hayes is a great defender, but with the adaptive abilities of Blake Griffin, especially his new up and under move, it could mean a win for the Clippers.
– Perimeter defense and rotations. The Rockets have two very good perimeter players in Kevin Martin and Kyle Lowry. Since the All Star Break (which approximately coincided with the Aaron Brooks trade), Lowry has been averaging 16.8 points and 7.3 assists for the Rockets. Kevin Martin is just as wily as ever. Both players thrive on contact too (Martin averages 8.4 free throw attempts per game, Lowry 3.3) so the Clippers will have to show on screens well in order to stop them from penetrating and disrupting the Clips’ defense.
Ryan Gomes: right knee, questionable
Yao Ming: stress fracture in left ankle
Terrence Williams: lower abdominal surgery, out indefinitely