HOUSTON -- With Omer Asik getting his way and penciled in as the starting center for the Houston Rockets, that means center Dwight Howard is the team's starter at power forward.
That also means Howard has the task of guarding Dallas power forward Dirk Nowitzki when the Rockets (1-0) and Mavs (1-0) face each other at 7 tonight at the Toyota Center. It's a job Howard hasn't done -- other than an Oct. 21 preseason game against the Mavs -- since his rookie season with the Orlando Magic during the 2004-'05 campaign.
"My first year I checked him a lot, but I haven’t checked him since,'' Howard said. "It’s just going to be an adjustment.
"Instead of running back to the paint I have to run back to the three-point line. That’s tough for me,
because I’m used to being the first guy to protect the basket.''
Nowitzki provides challenges for Howard unlike any power forward he'll guard, because the Mavs' 11-time All-Star can pull Howard away from the rim with his deft three-point shooting touch. Or if Howard floats too far from the basket, Nowitzki can put the ball on the floor and dribble past him and attack the basket.
"Well, I think this will be a challenge,'' said Howard, who had 17 points and 26 rebounds Wednesday against Charlotte. "I’m on board and I’ll do the best I can.
"I’ve watched his game. He’s 7-foot, he’s shooting three's, he’s doing everything. It’s going to be a challenge, but I’m up for it.''
In addition to studying film on how to defend Nowitzki, Howard had some fun repeating how Rockets coach Kevin McHale describes Nowitzki.
"Coach calls Dirk, Dirty Dirk,'' Howard said. "So I’m up for the challenge of going against Dirty Dirk.
"I guess I’m Clean Harry against Dirty Dirk.''
-- Dwain Price
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