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Two viable sources, Elmo and Nuggets coach Brian Shaw, talk Dwight Howard and strategy (Video)

Dan Devine
Ball Don't Lie

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Dwight hopes a certain monster won't be mad if he puts his hand in the cookie jar. (Bill Baptist/NBAE/Getty Im …

This coming Thursday, Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard — no stranger to children's television — will appear on time-honored PBS programming staple "Sesame Street" to join Elmo in helping teach kids the proper definition of the word "strategy." Thanks to Elmo's powerful public relations team, we got a sneak peek at the segment:

But "Sesame Street" viewers aren't the only ones Howard's helping learn about strategy — this past Saturday, he also taught Denver Nuggets head coach Brian Shaw a lesson about game-planning, according to Chris Dempsey of the Denver Post:

Deep inside, Shaw hates the Hack-a-Howard strategy anyway. But down big in the fourth and already in the penalty, Shaw bowed to temptation and ordered his players to foul at will on the Rockets star center, who entered the game shooting a paltry 49 percent from the line.

And Howard rose to the occasion.

The Rockets center fouled time after time in the fourth quarter and made good on 14-of-20 of them.

“That goes against everything that I’m about,” Shaw said. “I even think you guys asked me that before the game, if I would resort to that, and I don’t believe in that, I don’t think it’s in the spirit of the game. So that is exactly what I get for doing that. I’m glad he made his free throws. It shows me to just be true to who you are.”

That sounds like a lesson Elmo himself would be proud to teach his young audience, Coach Shaw. He probably wouldn't look to do it by running offense through J.J. Hickson and Kenneth Faried in the post, but hey, to each his own. (And to Shaw's credit, the first-year coach has taken to spreading things out a bit more and putting more responsibility in the hands of point guard Ty Lawson, who scored 28 points and dished a season-high 17 assists on Saturday.)

All told, Howard finished 17 for 24 from the charity stripe, pushing him to a team-high 25 points in 29 minutes and helping his Rockets hold off the Nuggets and earn a 122-111 home win. Howard has now made better than half his freebies in each of his last three games, moving his troubling free-throw percentage to 53.1 percent on the young season.

That might not sound like much, especially considering all those reports about Howard hitting at an 80 percent clip in practice, but after he barely topped 49 percent in each of the last two campaigns, it's a marked improvement. I'm not sure exactly what strategy Howard's using when he steps to the stripe — a look at the videotape makes it clear that he's no longer going with the "set up half a foot behind the line" approach he tested out last year — but if it keeps up, more coaches might think twice about intentionally fouling Dwight late in games to take the ball out of the hands of facilitators and shotmakers like James Harden, Jeremy Lin and Chandler Parsons.

Now that sounds like a plan that could help head coach Kevin McHale solve the problem of whether to keep Howard on the floor late in close games. We're sure Elmo would approve of that.

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Dan Devine is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at devine@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter!

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