Warriors face tall-task against high-octane Rockets
Dwight Howard entered the league one season earlier than Andrew Bogut in 2004; he has 9,268 career rebounds to Bogut's 4,221. (USATSI)
OAKLAND -- The first meeting of the season between Andrew Bogut and Rockets center Dwight Howard brings a juicy subplot between centers with several basic similarities.
Both share a preference to camp near the hoop. Both have a comfort with, and willingness to, initiate physical contact. Both have difficulty making free throws.
And if that weren't enough to sell Friday's battle of titans, there is the memory of Warriors ownership and management spending part of last summer trying to persuade Howard, then a free agent, to come to Oakland -- in which case Howard would have been the new and very expensive big man in town.
Though Howard signed with Houston, Bogut and his representatives made it clear during their own negotiations that they were disappointed to see the Warriors chasing another big man.
Bogut, who ended up signing a three-year extension with the Warriors, didn't want to go near that subject on Thursday as the team prepared to begin a three-game road trip with a flight to Houston.
"I've touched on that (already), so I'm not really going to get involved in that discussion," Bogut said after practice Thursday. "It is what it is."
Bogut was much more comfortable talking the kind of basketball we should expect in the first meeting of the season between the two big men.
"He's just strong," he said of Howard. "He works pretty hard in the paint, just constantly banging against you and trying to get offensive rebounds and lobs and easy baskets. So I'll have to do my work early and make sure he doesn't get any easy looks.
"If he's making 4- and 5-foot hook shots against me, and making jumpers, instead of getting easy dunks and tip-ins, then I'm doing my job."
Howard may be the premier center in the game yet he doesn't pass as well as Bogut, isn't as versatile as Memphis big man Marc Gasol, can't shoot it like Sacramento's DeMarcus Cousins and no longer defends the rim as well as, say, Indiana's Roy Hibbert.
Howard, now in his 10th season, produces mostly through quality effort and superior athletic ability. His physique is cartoonish, his jumping phenomenal.
"He's gotten a lot better," Bogut said. "When I first played him, he was an athletic guy who would dunk a lot and get those tough plays. And now he's tried to expand his post game. He's worked on his left hand a lot. He's always going to be that physical, imposing body down there and he's very, very athletic. So I have my work cut out."
Howard, who walked away from the Lakers to sign a four-year deal worth $88 million with the Rockets, ranks fourth among league rebounders (12.6), fifth in field goal percentage (55.6), ninth in blocks (1.75) and 35th in scoring (16.6).
"A dominant big man," Jackson said.
There are not many titanic individual battles in today's NBA. But when one comes along, nobody appreciates it more than Bogut.
If he had his way, Bogut would spend 90 percent of every game close enough to grab either rim. He likely will come pretty close to that on Friday.
INJURY UPDATE: Backup point guard Toney Douglas (stress reaction, left tibia) practiced for the first time in more than three weeks, will travel with the team and could play as early as Friday. Forward Andre Iguodala (strained left hamstring) did not practice but continues to receive treatment and has progressed enough to also travel with the team.
Notable Rockets injuries include forward Chandler Parsons (back, day to day), center Omer Asik (thigh contusion, out) and guard Jeremy Lin (sprained right knee, out).