The Los Angeles Lakers have agreed to terms on a one-year deal with center Dwight Howard. Howard, who spent one season with the Lakers in 2012-13, returns to Los Angeles after brief playing stints with four other teams.
This deal came in the wake of Demarcus Cousin’s season-ending ACL injury. The Lakers needed a big man to replace Cousins, and Dwight Howard could potentially fit the bill. But while most contracts in the NBA are fully guaranteed, Los Angeles has added a stipulation to this deal that will allow the team to waive Howard penalty-free if he doesn’t hold up his end of the bargain.
The Lakers will have zero tolerance for locker room disruption
Per Adrian Wojnarowski’s report on the signing, the Lakers have made it clear that if Dwight Howard disrupts this locker room, he’ll be gone. If Los Angeles decides to cut Howard at any point before the NBA’s January 7 deadline to guarantee contracts, the remainder of the 33-year-old’s deal will be voided.
Dwight Howard has always had the talent to be a productive NBA center. Howard averaged 18.4 points, 13 rebounds, and 2.2 blocks per game through the first eight seasons of his career with the Orlando Magic. He was an all-star for eight straight seasons from 2006 through 2014, and one of the game’s best big men averaging 20.6 points, 13.9 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks per game from 2007 through 2011.
But since his first stint with the Los Angeles Lakers, Howard has been bounced around the league and been labeled as a toxic personality. With a long list of reported issues with former teammates and coaches everywhere he has gone, the Lakers have legitimate cause for concern on how he will fit in. They are hoping that tying his earning potential to his behavior helps to offset his past issues.
Howard impressed the team during his tryout
Dwight Howard earned this shot at redemption with a great tryout. He reportedly looked physically strong and was able to perform all of the basketball activities that were put in front of him. Howard’s surgically repaired back did not show any issues, and he looked highly-motivated after losing 25 pounds this offseason.
The former Laker also impressed the team off the court. He had multiple meetings with coaches, management, and teammates including Anthony Davis. Howard reportedly expressed that he had hit rock bottom and was committed to accepting a lesser role on the team and doing whatever he needed to do to contribute.
Adrian Wojnarowski was quick to point out that this isn’t the first time Dwight Howard has made claims like this. “For years, Howard, 33, has sold an almost annual idea of a personal renaissance and epiphany, only to infuriate coaches and teammates with behavior that moved from selfish on the court to childish and disruptive off it.” But despite this reputation, Howard did enough to earn himself another shot.
A worthwhile gamble for the Lakers
This was already shaping up to be a volatile locker room with big personalities like LeBron James and Rajon Rondo in the mix. Adding Dwight Howard could wind up being the straw that breaks the camel’s back.
But thanks to the non-guaranteed contract, the Lakers have a quick and easy out if that’s the case. And on the off-chance that Howard’s renaissance is actually legitimate this time around, Los Angeles could be getting an excellent rim-protector and rebounder looking to prove himself for an excellent value.
With only three years left on LeBron James’ current contract and the big trade for Anthony Davis this offseason, the Lakers are firmly in win-now mode. A player like Joakim Noah wasn’t going to move the needle much. Dwight Howard’s best years are behind him, but there’s at least a chance that he still has some legitimate production left in the tank.