When footage of Hakeem Olajuwon going through drills with the previously offensively-challenged Dwight Howard surfaced, the basketball world went nuts.
Fans and media got even more excited once Howard’s game showed dramatic improvement after a few games, as everyone sung praises for Hakeem’s Yoda-like teachings.
Well, nearly everyone.
The always delightfully grouchy Stan Van Gundy thinks far too much was made of the Olajuwon/Howard session, and would like for his assistant coach Patrick Ewing to get a bit more credit for working with Dwight every day.
“This isn’t a knock on anybody, but Hakeem has gotten more credit for two hours than anyone I’ve ever seen,” Van Gundy said with very little prompting. “I mean, they were in a gym for two hours, three hours, and all of a sudden every shot Dwight makes is because of Hakeem.” Howard had 28 points Wednesday in a 97-87 victory over Milwaukee. He is averaging a career-high 21.4 points this season, confident enough to use a short jump shot instead of just bulling his way to the basket.
“Dwight has done a lot of work, and I’m sure Hakeem gave him some advice, but that’s just starting to annoy me. There is not anybody alive who’s turning somebody’s game around in three hours,” Van Gundy said. “Dwight has done a lot of work, and I’m sure Hakeem gave him some advice, but that’s just starting to annoy me.”
Van Gundy is right to a degree. It’s kind of like when Kobe worked out with Hakeem for a few hours a year before, and people acted as though Dream had re-invented his entire post game.
Olajuwon is undoubtedly a terrific teacher of the game. But I think it’s important to recognize the current players’ own efforts, to say nothing of the people they work with on a daily basis.