Saturday, March 15, 2008

Howard's role continues to grow

Josh Howard’s evolution as a basketball player is obvious. Just look at the stats. Scoring and rebounding numbers for the fifth-year small forward have trended up each year.

Avery Johnson has a different measure for Howard. It’s one of responsibility. Those numbers are on the rise, too.

“Josh is going to have to play the primetime scorers and he’s been doing a good job of trying to deny them the ball,” Johnson said. “He’s been really physical. For years we didn’t want him doing that. He’s matured now and he can handle it physically and mentally.”

Recognized as the Mavericks’ best perimeter defender for the last few years, Johnson had a plan in place to “protect” Howard, at least early in games. He wouldn’t guard those big-time scoring swingmen – Kobe Bryant, Tracy McGrady, Dwyane Wade and so on – at the start.

That responsibility went to guys such as Adrian Griffin and Devean George. That strategy also led to the signings of Doug Christie and Eddie Jones. Consider the experiment closed. Jerry Stackhouse’s move into the starting lineup further cements the change in philosophy.

Read the rest of this story and get a preview of the Heat in today's notebook at

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