Dwight Howard is in Chicago tonight to face off against his former teammate, Pau Gasol, but it was Dwight’s comment about another one of his opponents this evening that is making headlines.
Jimmy Butler, the fourth-year shooting guard out of Marquette, is leading the Bulls in points (21.9), steals (1.6), and free throw attempts (8.1), helping the surging Bulls to a 24-10 record, good for first place in the Central Division and second in the Eastern Conference.
While meeting with reporters this morning at the United Center, Howard gave Butler the ultimate compliment.
“He should be up there in the MVP running. He’s playing great basketball. He’s been one of the most consistent players all season. He’s scoring, playing defense, making game-winners. He’s having an unbelievable season. It’s like,’Where did he come from?’ But you could kind of see his progress over the years.”
Although he’s never won the NBA’s MVP award, Dwight Howard knows a thing or two about winning top individual honors. Howard won the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year award three years straight (2009-2011).
Also standing across the court from Dwight this evening is his one-time Los Angeles Lakers sidekick, forward Pau Gasol, who leads the Bulls in rebounds and blocks. There has been much written this season on Gasol’s career resurgence with the Bulls, and Howard had mountains of praise for his former teammate this morning.
“He’s been playing great. I like what he’s doing on the offensive end when he gets the ball. On the defensive end he’s blocking shots and making it tough for guys to score in the paint. He’s one of those guys who can give you 20 and 10 every night because he has all the skills, rebounding, can score from anywhere on the perimeter, can score in the post. It’s fun to watch him play, but it’s also fun to play against him,” said Howard.
Gasol, on the other hand, told reporters that he sees a different Dwight Howard this season in Houston.
“He (Howard) doesn’t seem to be as aggressive in the post or get as many touches as he used to be maybe, but he’s always a big factor in the games.”
Howard’s Houston Rockets (24-10) currently sit in fifth place in the Western Conference and third in the Southwest Division. Dwight leads the Rockets in rebounds (11.3) and blocks (1.8), but his scoring average (18.0) is the second lowest number he has posted over the last eight seasons.
Given the complimentary words Howard traded with his former teammate today, it’s not likely you will see a physical confrontation during the game like when Dwight faced his former teammate Kobe Bryant back in October.
Following tonight’s game, Dwight Howard’s Rockets will travel to Cleveland for a Wednesday match-up with the LeBron James-less Cleveland Cavaliers. Howard and the Rockets will then immediately board a plane for a Thursday night game against a man who passed on joining Dwight’s Rockets this past summer in free agency, Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks.
[Photo via USA Today]