Steinmetz: Much was learned during trip

Leftovers from the Warriors’ recent 3-1 Eastern Conference road trip …

» Orlando’s Dwight Howard is an incredible physical specimen and appears to be a great kid with a very good work ethic. He is so big and so athletic that he can get you numbers by accident, and any coach would love to have him on their team.

But Howard still has a long way to go and there are no assurances he’ll get there. At times, Howard simply cannot impact a game enough because he is simply not skilled enough — such as what he showed in the second half of Saturday’s game against the Warriors.

He’s not a good free-throw shooter, can’t create a shot for himself or anyone else and doesn’t really have any low-post moves. Because he’s bigger and stronger than most other players, he can pick up inside garbage and score or get spoon-fed by a penetrator for dunks.

But until further notice, Howard can be defended. And he was against the Warriors.

» After watching the Warriors play the Atlanta Hawks and Charlotte Bobcats last week, I couldn’t help but wonder why those two teams don’t run more.

The Hawks laid 70 first-half points on the Warriors before fading and eventually going away. Granted, point guard Mike Bibby is banged up, but they’ve still got Marvin Williams, Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, Josh Childress and even Al Horford. Shouldn’t that team be uptempo?

The following night in Charlotte, the Warriors came across another team averaging 90-something points per game despite a roster that includes Raymond Felton, Jason Richardson and Gerald Wallace.

No kidding the Hawks and Bobcats don’t run as well as the Warriors. The Warriors didn’t run as well as the Phoenix Suns when they started to play fast. If the Hawks and Bobcats made a commitment to running, they’d be able to play that style better than just about every other team in the East.

» It’s always more comfortable to play the role of underdog — even if it’s not true. Coach Don Nelson and the Warriors use the “average Joe” thing as much as they can, for example. If that’s what they need to do, so be it.

But the cold, hard truth is that the Warriors are 55-28 over their past 83 regular-season games. That’s a lot closer to elite than underdog.

» Mickael Pietrus can be a confounding player, no doubt. But at this point, Nelson has no choice but to go with Pietrus before Matt Barnes or Kelenna Azubuike.

When Pietrus is aggressive and rebounding, it makes some of the puzzling aspects of his game — stepping on the sideline or the silly foul, for example — a lot more tolerable. Pietrus averaged 9.3 rebounds per game on the road trip. If he can do that, he’s got to play.

Matt Steinmetz is the NBA insider for Warriors telecasts on Fox Sports Net.

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