Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Dwight [Howard] Knows He Needs Work

ORLANDO — Dwight Howard's teammates were on him again after practice Tuesday, challenging him to prove that he can still touch the piece of tape on the side of the backboard some 30 inches above the rim.

The strip of tape was originally put there two years ago, when a then-18-year-old Howard was working out for the Orlando Magic prior to the 2004 NBA Draft. It's still stuck there for all to marvel at, and every so often Howard has to prove that talk of his majestic wingspan and leaping ability is legit. After hemming and hawing a few seconds about being older now and weighing 25 pounds more, Howard sprung from the floor and actually touched a couple of inches above the tape.

"Myyyy goodness," gushed Magic assistant coach Morlon Wiley, shaking his head. Magic head coach Brian Hill also was impressed, but what followed were hardly words of glowing praise. "Now when a guy drives baseline, that's how I wanna to see you jump and contest the shot," Hill said without even a hint of a smile.

Opposing coaches and players have made a habit this season of gushing about Howard, the Magic's 6-foot-11, 265-pound beast of a power forward. New York's Larry Brown has said that Howard will someday give the Magic a chance to win an NBA championship. Meanwhile, reigning MVP Steve Nash said that of all the young players in the league he could pick to build a team around, it would be Howard.

But Howard hasn't been nearly as complimentary toward his own play, feeling he should be farther along in his sophomore season of NBA play. Too often, the steps from season one to season two have been incremental rather than monumental.

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