Trevor Ariza Says Dwight Howard Looks More Athletic Than Ever

The Houston Rockets didn’t have a banner offseason. They let Chandler Parsons walk to cross-state rivals in restricted free agency, and sacrificed crucial depth by trading away Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin in efforts to land a player who ended up signing elsewhere. Those losses leave the Rockets a depleted version of the team that won 54 games in 2013-2014 but couldn’t advance beyond the first round of the playoffs, leading some to believe that Houston could regress this season in an increasingly loaded Western Conference. To ensure otherwise, Kevin McHale will rely even more on his superstar tandem of James Harden and Dwight Howard. And fortunately for the Rockets, Howard seems more than up to the task after a strong offseason.

In a story by Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski detailing the All-Star center’s re-dedication to the game and preparation for the coming season, his former Orlando Magic teammate and Houston summer signee Trevor Ariza said that Howard looks more athletic than ever.

Trevor Ariza, who played three seasons with Howard on the Magic, walked into Rockets training camp and found himself mesmerized with Howard’s re-transformation. “To be honest, he looks more athletic to me now,” Ariza told Yahoo Sports. “He’s always been big and strong, but he seems stronger to me, looks like he’s jumping higher than he did.”

Ariza played with Howard in Orlando during the latter’s second and third NBA seasons in 2005-2006 and 2006-2007. Though Howard had yet to establish himself as the viable MVP candidate and overwhelming choice for Defensive Player of the Year that he would just two years later, he was still a freak of nature physically during his early years with the Magic – Howard had an incredible 254 dunks in the 2006-2007 season.

So that Ariza believes his center is even more athletic now than he was then is certainly intriguing, especially considering Howard’s relatively underwhelming physical form of the past three seasons. That Howard looks to be leaping better is an especially good indication that he’s regained his all-everything form.

Franchise legend Hakeem Olajuwon showered Howard with even more praise:

After watching Howard in training camp, Rockets icon Hakeem Olajuwon told Yahoo: “He’s a different animal this year. His physique, his spirit coming together with his talent and skills and health; he has an aura about him here. It’s like he’s gotten his youth back.”

No matter the development he makes from a skill perspective, Howard’s game will always be built on physicality. There simply isn’t a player in basketball that can match his combination of strength, speed, quickness, and leaping ability, a fact evident even in his diminished state of last season. So if Howard really is more athletic than ever after a diligent summer of training, it wouldn’t shock if he re-emerged as one of the league’s several most valuable performers. And more important for the Rockets, he’d surely lead them to legitimate title-contention in that case, too.

What do you think?

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