Former Rockets coach McHale: Howard's 'not what he used to be'

Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports

Dwight Howard is used to getting grief. Consider the end of his tenure with the Orlando Magic, his one season with the Los Angeles Lakers, or his reaction to James Harden's game-winning shot Thursday night.

His former Houston Rockets coach Kevin McHale, however, had some especially forthright things to say about the veteran center's declining skills on Friday.

"If you throw it down to him (in the post) on a steady diet the poor guy just can't get down low and move any more," McHale told SiriusXM NBA Radio, according to Kurt Helin of PBT. "I think that back bothered him, his hips are tight from that and he just wasn't the same player."

Howard, who turns 31 in December, missed 81 regular-season games over the past five years due to back and knee issues. McHale did give credit to Howard for trying to return to the form he exhibited from 2006-11.

"He's worked hard on it," said McHale, who was fired in November amid reports of discontent in the Houston locker room during a disappointing season. "The kid does work hard on his physical conditioning and trying to get healthy and stuff. But he is not what he used to be down there in the low post. And I think the knee surgery, too."

Howard has always preferred the post game, choosing to body up or dunk as opposed to being the roll man on pick-and-rolls - some would say to his detriment. Yet the reality is that big men must fight a natural decline that begins around age 30. Howard just completed his 12th NBA season, a product of him being a prominent member of the prep-to-pro generation.

Player GP to 30 Season at 30: PTS REB PER
Hakeem Olajuwon 676 26.1 13 27.3
Patrick Ewing 601 24.2 12.1 20.8
Dwight Howard 880 13.7 11.8 18.9

The Rockets were slightly worse in terms of points per possessions with Howard on the floor this season, but he remains a solid defensive player - even if calling him an elite rim protector is erroneous.

That's why another team - unlikely to be the Rockets - will pay Howard big money when he opts out of his contract this summer.

Former Rockets coach McHale: Howard's 'not what he used to be'
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