To double-team or not to double-team Howard, that is the question

When the Hawks signed Dwight Howard this summer, one of the hopes was that the center would command double-teams from opposing defenses. Howard would be a more traditional center and bring a number of post options to the Hawks offense.

Both management and players spoke publically of the notion that the extra attention that had to be paid to Howard would spread the floor and create open shots.

The Hawks offense was already adept at creating open 3-point attempts. Perhaps there would be more.

Or perhaps not.

At least one opposing coach does not plan to double-team Howard once the regular season arrives. Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said before Monday’s exhibition game that he is far more concerned with surrendering 3-pointers on a regular basis. Even if it means allowing Howard a big night.

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“Playing with Dwight, just knowing how dominant he is, he became a great passer,” Lue said. “He can make good passes. But my whole theory is we have to give up 2’s. Instead of giving up 3’s, we’ll give up 2’s. For Dwight, he’s capable of scoring 40 or 50 (points) but we have to live with that in order to win the basketball game.”

For his part, Howard said he doesn’t necessarily expect to be double-teamed consistently.

“It doesn’t matter,” Howard said. “The game has changed so much and the 3-point basket is the easiest shot right now. … When you have a team scoring easy buckets in the paint, it just opens up everything else. My job is just to be aggressive. I don’t expect them to double-team which is a good thing.

“I don’t think teams come in with the mindset of that they are going to double right away. They are going to mix it up. Even if a team says they are not going to double they can use that and (want me to say) ‘Oh, tonight I’m going to have a night where I can go one-on-one.’ They try to get in your head that way. I don’t think about it. Double-team or no double-team, I just try to be aggressive.”

Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said simply expecting opposing defenses to double-team Howard is a simplistic view. He said he expects to use Howard much as the Magic did early in his career.

“I wouldn’t say expecting as far as double-teams who is going to or who is not going to is part of the Dwight factor or Dwight equation,” Budenholzer said. “I think the way he has been probably been used the best is the way Orlando used him, a lot of pick-and-rolls to a post-up and pick-and-rolls to create spacing and create pressure on the rim, and create angles and places where he can catch it in the post and catch it deep and score quickly and a of more traditional post-ups. Hopefully, you’ll see Dwight get a lot of both. If he scores 40 or 50 and we win then we will be happy. If he scores 40 or 50 and the other team wins, I’m sure that other coach will think they did a great job.”

The Cavaliers, without playing any starters or regular rotation players, did not double-team in the Hawks’ 99-93 exhibition victory Monday. Howard finished with a game-high 26 points and eight rebounds in 23 minutes. All but two of his 11 field goals came from two feet or closer to the basket, including four dunks.

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