Howard makes his presence felt
Of all the players who could have contributed to Miami’s second-half turnaround against the Pacers Thursday night, just about the least likely would have been Juwan Howard.
He was born in 1973, during the Nixon administration. He’s an even older 40 years old than Jason Kidd. He was drafted into the NBA in 1994, after experiencing Fab Fivedom at Michigan. He’s played for eight different NBA teams, and two teams twice. He played in just seven games for Miami this season, averaging three points. He’s not even on its playoff roster, although he practices with the team, and watches games in street clothes from the bench.
But, he carries a veteran’s respect in Miami’s locker room, and he exercised it during halftime of the Heat’s game against the Pacers Thursday night. Indiana led 44-40 at the break after controlling most of the half. Neither team had played very well, but the Heat had been dominated around the basket, giving up 39 points to the Pacers’ frontline of Paul George, David West and Roy Hibbert.
Something needed to be said, and Howard did it. After Miami’s 90-79 victory at American Airlines Arena, Udonis Haslem gave Howard the credit for the third-quarter uprising in which Miami outscored the Pacers 90-79.
“He set the tone for the second half in the locker room with the words that he said,” said Haslem, who finished with 16 points on 8-of-9 shooting. “And then coming in to start the third quarter, LeBron just echoed it.”
The magic words?
“There’s a lot of bleeps and stuff like that,” Haslem said. “But (Howard was saying) they’re not going to give us the game. We have to go out there and take it.”
“And he also threw a couple of things around in the locker room, too,” Haslem added later. “I left that out.”
The Heat have experienced Howard’s brand of leadership before. It was Howard, remember, who confronted Pacers guard Lance Stephenson before Game 4 of last year’s playoff series between the two teams, after Stephenson had flashed LeBron James the choke sign for missing two foul shots in Game 3. Howard was let go by the Heat after last season, but re-signed on March 2 – two a pair of 10-day contracts at first, and then for the remainder of the season.
James also gave credit to Howard on Thursday.
“Juwan’s voice in our locker room and on the floor is as big as anyone,” James said. “That’s why we brought him back.”
“He got on us at halftime, letting us know we weren’t connected as a team, we weren’t playing as a team. We were wasting an opportunity.”