When the Houston Rockets signed Dwight Howard over the summer, they imagined a powerful trio of James Harden, Jeremy Lin and Howard that would contend for the Western Conference and the NBA championship. This season has not gone according to plan as Lin has been out with a knee injury and Howard has struggled to mesh.
Relationships take time, but the combination of Howard and Harden could be the next great duo of basketball. The pair demonstrated their abilities Sunday night as the Rockets defeated Howard’s former team, the Orlando Magic, 98-88. Both players recorded double-doubles. Howard had 20 points and 22 rebounds while Harden just missed a triple-double with 27 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds.
Those are fantastic numbers for two players and should be enough to beat any team on any given night. Howard has never really played with a player like Harden for an extended period of time. He had a short run with Kobe Bryant, but both dealt with injuries during Howard’s one season with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Harden is a playmaker, who can create his own shot while getting his teammates involved. He can spread the floor with his jumper and can keep defenders on their toes with his ability to drive. Not only can he score, but he can pass the ball with great accuracy and is not afraid to rebound.
I’ve always thought that Howard has been an underachiever. For a man of his size and strength, he should be putting up 20 points and 20 rebounds on a consistent basis. Instead, Howard has shown periods of offensive struggle and laziness.
With Harden’s ability to spread the floor and dish the basketball, Howard should get better looks in the post and more drive-and-dish dunks. This duo has the possibility to be something powerful and great — maybe another “Shaq and Kobe” typr combo. Oh, and did I mention that Houston expects Lin to return this week?
The Rockets should get better as the season goes on and the players build chemistry. As long as Howard can set aside his larger-than-life ego and show an ounce of maturity, the Rockets have a shot at the West and the Finals.