Over the last few seasons, former All-Star big man Dwight Howard garnered a strong stigma around the league that saw him bounce from team to team. However, Howard appears to have finally found a sticking point back with the Los Angeles Lakers that has got his NBA career back on track. It’s a situation that neither side had initially thought would pan out in the manner that it did over the offseason. All of that was helped made possible by Howard asking for one thing that proved pivotal in getting him a second opportunity in Los Angeles.
Dwight Howard’s career rebirth with the Lakers
In the months leading into the 2019-20 season, there was plenty of mystery around the role that Howard would play in his second stint with the Lakers.
There was talk that he was verbally committed to playing any in spot that Los Angeles needed him. All of this was completely new territory for Howard, marking the first time in his career he was heading into a situation without a defined role.
The 34-year-old has fully embraced his supplementary role off the bench, currently averaging 7.0 points, 7.1 rebounds and 1.2 blocks while shooting 75% from the floor in 19 games played. These numbers are far from the level of production that has come to be expected from Howard, but he has been a significant factor on both ends of the floor, primarily as a rim protector defensively. His career resurgence has even impressed Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal.
What has been most encouraging for the Lakers is that the former All-Star big man has been true to his word from the start. Beyond that, Howard has shown that with his actions when discussing coming on board with the franchise.
Dwight Howard’s one unique request
The opportunity to join the Lakers came about for the Lakers after former All-Star big man DeMarcus Cousins suffered a torn ACL during an offseason pickup game. Howard was one of the first names to be mentioned as a possible replacement choice to fill Cousins’ void on the roster.
Talks between both sides were fluid, which he said all the right things to the front office to put him in a position to join the team. However, Ramona Shelburne recently pointed out on ESPN’s The Jump that the decision to play under a non-guaranteed contract was completely Howard’s idea.
“I think with Dwight, it also goes back to why the Lakers signed that contract with him that way in the first place. Dwight asked for that. That was his idea. That wasn’t the Lakers saying ‘oh this is the only way we’ll do it.’ This was Dwight and his agent saying ‘yes, we’ll do non-guaranteed just to show you how committed we are to being this kind of player.’”
The choice to play under this type of contract just further drove home the point that Howard was fully committed to whatever the Lakers had envisioned for him. It also demonstrated the seriousness that he had in making the most of this opportunity by putting more pressure on proving it with his play on the court.
Lakers’ bright future ahead
Howard has become a key component for the Lakers in what’s been a promising start to the season.
Los Angeles quickly raced off to one of the top records in the league, behind the well-rounded play of their veteran-laden roster led by All-Stars Anthony Davis and LeBron James. The two stars have shown a great deal of cohesion with their play on the court while the team has become one of the top defensive juggernauts.
There will be times where the Lakers will be tested with tough stretches, but it’s hard to be anything less than encouraged by how immediate the success has been with an almost entirely reconstructed roster. That has also thrust some lofty expectations ahead of the franchise towards being back in the title picture this season alongside the likes of the L.A. Clippers, Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia 76ers, Toronto Raptors, and Denver Nuggets.
The 2019-20 regular season may only be a quarter of the way through, but the Lakers continue to demonstrate they are a force to be reckoned with this year.