Hakeem Olajuwon mentored Dwight Howard in the offseason after Howard signed a four-year, $88-million deal with the Rockets.
But despite their work over the summer, Olajuwon can't wait to get back from his trip to Nigeria to continue teaching Howard.
“Dwight has always been athletic and aggressive, and he still is. But when I watch him, what I see are opportunities that he is missing," Olajuwon told NBA.com on Tuesday. "When he gets the ball, he seems to be taking his time to decide what move to make, where he should go.
“There should not be a delay for Dwight. He must be able to make a faster recognition of the situations and react immediately with a go-to move. You must move right away before the defense has a chance to set up. You must be the one making the first move so that you can force the defender to always be the one reacting."
Olajuwon left Houston in early October to return to his home in Jordan. He was in Nigeria to launch a youth basketball initiative. Still, his mind was on Howard.
“I thought we were doing a good job with this when we were working together over the summer and at the start of training camp," Olajuwon said, adding that he believes Howard's struggles at the free-throw line are all mental. "But what I see now is that when Dwight gets in competition, he has a tendency to go back to all of his old habits. He’s just doing all of the things that he did before. He needs a reminder.
“Maybe if I am there with him all of the time we can reinforce new habits and make it all feel natural,” Olajuwon said.
Olajuwon said he plans to return to Houston prior to the All-Star break in February and stay through the playoffs.
Despite Olajuwon's critiques, the Rockets are 8-4 and Howard is one of only 12 players in the league averaging a double-double. He's scoring 17.2 points per game with 13.9 rebounds and 2.4 blocks. MAHONEY: How the Pacers' already strong defense got even better