The 2019-20 season for the Los Angeles Lakers is only three games old, and that the team is already above .500 this early in the year is a victory within itself. The roster has shown its strengths and weaknesses in its two wins and loss, but one particular plus has been Dwight Howard.
After the Lakers’ bench only put up 19 points against the Clippers on opening night, the season wasn’t looking so bright outside Anthony Davis and LeBron James. But Howard — possibly the unlikeliest of heroes, especially in this city — might have changed that tune.
During the Lakers’ 120-101 win over the Hornets, Howard ended the night with 16 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks in 23 minutes. His plus/minus was +23, the highest of any Laker that night as L.A. began its first winning streak this year.
Howard was an unexpected (and unplanned, for the most part) acquisition by the Lakers during the offseason. L.A. had Javale McGee and DeMarcus Cousins — and when needed, AD — to be at the five. But Cousins’ suffering a torn ACL to end his season in mid-August brought Howard into the conversation.
It seemed like a mutual agreement between the Grizzlies and Howard that they weren’t going to work well together. Within a week’s time, Howard agreed to a non-guaranteed contract with the Lakers after the Memphis Grizzles bought him out. Different Lakers and front office executives were vocal about Howard’s capability to play for another season, and to be a good teammate. And it’s looking like they weren’t wrong.
It’s hard to imagine there’s any bad blood between the two considering that Howard never had a chance to put on a Grizzlies uniform, and that Memphis did him a favor by letting him go to a contender. Still, with Howard on a redemption tour, tonight is another opportunity to make all the other teams that had little-to-no interest in him suiting up for them this summer look retroactively foolish.
The Grizzlies aren’t a team to be considered a threat this early on in the season with their 1-2 record. But Ja Morant, the second overall pick in this year’s draft, will be dangerous (and worth watching).
Morant has already went up against Kyrie Irving and won during just the first week of his career. He’s also just one of three players in NBA history to a record a game with 30 or more points along with 9 or more assists within their first three career games. So personal or not, tonight will be an interesting mishmash of storylines, with one side featuring a veteran who’s trying prove he still belongs on a contender, and a rookie who’s lighting up the NBA world and increasingly showing he may be worth building such a team around one day.
The Lakers and Grizzlies tip off at 7:30 p.m. PT from Staples Center. The game will be shown on Spectrum SportsNet and NBA TV. Kyle Kuzma and Rajon Rondo will miss this one again, but there seems to be increasing reason for optimism that Kuzma could be back soon.