Dwight Howard Quietly Making History
Who else has accomplished the double feat? Just three Hall of Famers (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Walton and Hakeem Olajuwon) and a four-time Defensive Player of the Year (Ben Wallace). If blocks were recorded during their playing days, we'd probably be able to add Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain to the mix, as well. Either way, it's remarkable company.
In the last 17 years, six different pivot men have combined to win the Defensive Player of the Year award 14 times, and if Howard stays on his current pace, he'll likely become the seventh. A solid perimeter defender can shut down a top scorer, but a dominant shot-blocker and rebounder disrupts the entire offensive flow.
"I just know that he's done a great job of anchoring their defense and they depend heavily on him being back there, protecting the paint and sort of erasing mistakes that they make," Pistons coach Michael Curry said on Monday. "So, it reduces how many times you actually can get to the rim on them. And then, of course, he's an excellent rebounder. That's the big key, when you do get teams to miss, being able to come up and secure that basketball after one shot."
Though the Magic are rarely mentioned as a great defensive team, they actually rank third in the league in opposing field-goal percentage (43.6%). I told Howard after Monday's game in Detroit that he seems more focused on both ends of the court this season and he agreed that he's tried to become more consistent. "I know that my teammates need me to block shots and rebound," he said. "When I'm not doing it, we tend to lose a lot of games."
That might sound like a canned response, but it's actually surprisingly accurate: Dating back to Howard's rookie year, the Magic are 74-37 (.667) when he has at least three blocks in a game -- and just 134-143 (.484) when he has two or fewer. Even after he's stepped up his defense this year, the formula "more blocks = more wins" still holds true -- the Magic are 16-3 (.847) when he has at least four blocks in a game and 28-14 (.667) when he doesn't.