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Hornets' Dwight Howard proves worth in the paint and beyond
Leadership, performance makes fans of teammates
Published Monday, November 20, 2017 11:00 pm
by Ashley Mahoney

Dwight Howard brings more than blocked shots to the Charlotte Hornets.

Since joining the Hornets in June from a trade with Atlanta, the center has shown why he’s an eight-time All-Star and three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year.

“This is not all the work we put in,” Howard said. “This is something that we do every day to get better. What you do in the dark will always come to the light, no matter how long it takes. We put in a lot of work, and we will continue to do that.”
Howard averages 14.6 points per game and 12.9 rebounds, surpassing his numbers from last season with the Hawks (13.5 points and 12.7 rebounds).

Beyond his work as a rim protector, Howard’s double-double capabilities open endless possibilities for Charlotte. In Monday’s 118-102 win against Minnesota, he led the Hornets with a season high 25 points and 20 rebounds—his eighth double-double of the season. It marked his 49th career 20-point, 20-rebound game, in which he leads all active players.

“It’s awesome,” guard Kemba Walker said. “He was very dominant. He was active. He instigated so many plays.”
Said coach Steve Clifford: “Tonight he controlled the paint on both ends of the floor. He was a force in the paint on offense, and his pick-and-roll defense, all of his defense—his team defense was terrific. He controlled the game.”

Clifford emphasized that Howard “plays a thinking man’s game” when they signed him, and that “he helps his teammates in many more ways than just being quick to block a shot.” At 31, Howard has embraced his leadership role in Charlotte, working with guard Michael Carter-Williams after games on shooting and sprints to improve the recovering guard’s conditioning.

“Something that I really pride myself on is being there for my teammates on and off the court,” Howard said. “When we’re on the floor, my job is to help them erase mistakes. There’s going to be times when I do make mistakes, and I’m a little late, but it’s great when the wings and the guards have enough faith in me that they can pressure their man, they can get up and be aggressive, and know that I’m behind them.

“That’s a really good feeling for Nic [Batum] and for Mike [Kidd-Gilchrist] and any other guards. I just try to continue to talk to them, let them know what I see. Even with Marvin [Williams], I talked to him before the game, and how he could play [Timberwolves forward Karl-Anthony] Towns. I thought he did a really good job on him. It’s all communication. The more we communicate, the better we’ll be.”

After a six-game slump, the 7-9 Hornets have responded with a two-game win streak at home. Howard hopes the team can eradicate the early-season growing pains in order for things to move smoothly when the time comes to make a playoff push.

“I’m just very thankful that we got two good wins at home,” Howard said. “We always have to protect home court, and we’ve done that lately. It felt good to get a good win against a really good team. Man, we needed that. Everybody stepped up tonight, and played great defense. We didn’t allow them to get into an offensive groove. We got stops when we needed it.”



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