Signing DeMarcus Cousins was a gamble for the Los Angeles Lakers. While Cousins showed signs of brilliance in his return to the court with the Golden State Warriors, it was clear that he was hobbled after recovering from both a torn Achilles tendon and the ensuing quad injury. The Cousins experiment, at least for this season, didn’t last long after Cousins went down with a torn ACL while practicing.
After days of speculation, the Lakers are looking to replace him with an unlikely comeback tour for Dwight Howard.
Dwight Howard’s volatile reputation
Dwight Howard was a superstar, a defensive juggernaut, and the leader of an NBA Finals team at the height of his career. His dominant play and fun-loving attitude made him a favorite, and his winning Slam Dunk Contest showed that a goofball like himself could be a hit with fans. However, his stint with the Magic quickly soured.
Howard’s final years with Orlando were as tumultuous as could be. He fought with head coach Stan Van Gundy, alienated teammates, and constantly changed his mind about whether or not he even wanted to be there. The once beloved superstar was starting to be seen as a diva, and his move to Los Angeles seemed inevitable.
Dwight Howard’s first stint and eventual fall from grace
Dwight Howard’s trade from Orlando to the Los Angeles Lakers combined with their trade for an aging Steve Nash was meant to spearhead a final push as Kobe Bryant entered his final stretch. The result could not have been more catastrophic. A combination of locker room issues, injuries, and a fair dose of revisionist history have pointed out Howard as the problem.
The season saw Howard put up 17 points and 12 rebounds.per-game However, despite a late-season push sent them into the playoffs, the team was never the superteam that some predicted they would be. While it appears that Howard and Kobe did not get along — they famously clashed after Howard left — the Lakers did try to bring Howard back and failed.
Since then, Dwight has bounced around the league, and the player who was once one of the most beloved has become something of a pariah in basketball circles. Since his three-year stint in Houston, Dwight has not spent more than one year on a team, and he only played in nine games with the Washington Wizards last year.
The Lakers’ big men
With Cousins out and Anthony Davis’s resistance to playing the center position, the Lakers’ center rotation needed something. Aside from Howard, the team reportedly considered Joakim Noah to fill the depth needs. Although he has had a rough few years, Howard has shown glimpses of his former self, but a combination of injuries have hobbled him throughout the process and left him as a different player on the court.
Before missing most of last season, Dwight Howard played in 81 games for the Charlotte Hornets, but the expectations of a center have changed since the days when he was a perennial All-Star. Between he and JaVale McGee, the concerns of spreading the floor for LeBron and Anthony Davis could come back to haunt them. However, if Howard could turn back the clock, there may be room to adjust to him.
Howard’s return to Los Angeles won’t result in praise and adulation from the Lakers, but he theoretically could get it done with them if he can accept a smaller role and work within their system. He may not be the player he once was, and Cousins may have been the better fit, but Howard could use this opportunity to rewrite the last chapter of his career.