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Sound body: Dwight Howard at top of game in demanding position
Hornets center in condition to succeed
 
Published Thursday, February 22, 2018 10:18 pm
by Ashley Mahoney

PHOTO | TROY HULL
Dwight Howard has overcome back and knee issues to remain an elite NBA rebounder and defender at age 32. "I always try to take care of my body – night in and night out," he said.

Taking care of his “wheels” has kept Dwight Howard in the NBA.

A 32-year-old big man with a history of back and knee issues should not still be an elite defender, but he is. Howard has 37 double-doubles since joining the Charlotte Hornets, who acquired him from Atlanta in June largely due to his Orlando connection with coach Steve Clifford. Howard has surpassed whatever the Hornets presumed they inherited.

“If you went back and told our trainers and strength coaches in Orlando that he was going to be playing at this level now with the state that his knee was in back then, they would have said ‘no way,’” Clifford said Thursday after Charlotte’s 11-96 win against Brooklyn at Spectrum Center. “He has done a phenomenal job of taking care of his body. You’re talking about a guy who has major knee surgery and major back surgery. You would never know it.”

Howard grabbed a season-high 24 rebounds against Brooklyn, the Hornets’ first game since the All-Star break. His fifth game with 20-plus boards further cements his franchise lead (the previous high: three each from Emeka Okafor and Kurt Rambis). Howard’s double-double of 15 points and 24 boards marked the 703rd of his career, a category in which he leads active NBA players.

“Tonight was the first game back from a break, and my legs were a little wobbly tonight,” Howard said.

Said point guard Kemba Walker: “He gets every rebound. He dominates the paint—24, that’s unbelievable. We’re going to need that from him every night. If we want to make a push, we need that Dwight Howard to be there every night.”

Howard is the only Hornet to appear in every game this season, all of which have been starts. He averages 15.7 points and 12.8 rebounds per game, and is second only to Walker (23 points per game) in scoring.

“I’m a big believer that if you don’t take of your wheels, which are your feet, your knees and your legs, then anything can happen,” Howard said. “I always try to take care of my body—night in and night out. I spend a lot of time on the treatment table, getting a lot of work in, but also just conditioning and stuff like that.”

Said Clifford: “One thing that he has always done, unless he has had surgery, he plays every night. He likes to play. He doesn’t take practice off, and he never asks out of practice. He didn’t when he was young, and he hasn’t here. He really has done a terrific job of taking care of his himself and understanding his body, and what he has to do to keep at a level of fitness, strength, or whatever he has to do to play well.”

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