Dwight Howard spent one season with the Los Angeles Lakers and in that span of less than a year became one of the least popular players in franchise history. It wasn’t just that he demanded Kobe Bryant be traded or “muzzled”, or how long it took for him to actually make that decision. That entire chapter was a series of frustrations that many in the fan base aren’t ready to let go of.
Howard recognizes their annoyance and hopes to make good on this second chance with the organization, as he told Steve Mason and John Ireland of ESPN:
“I’m just full of gratitude, and just thankful for the opportunity to play at a high level, but also the opportunity to come back here and play in L.A. This organization has been great since I’ve been back. I never thought that this would happen and that I’d be playing for the Lakers again. I literally hated how this situation ended the first time, but divine timing is everything, and I believe everything happens for a reason. There is a reason I’m back here in L.A., and God is awesome, so I’m happy.”
First and foremost, it is good to hear that Dwight is in a better place now. He has cited previously that he hit rock bottom and if he is in a better place mentally, that’s all that really matters here. This is just sports and while he was annoying as all hell as a Laker, his mental health is the top priority.
Look, to a certain extent, there just isn’t much Howard can do right now to right the wrongs from the “Dwightmare” season. It’s going to take time and success — that’s really all it comes down to.
It is the lack of success relative to expectations that frustrated fans so much in the first place. Howard was supposed to be an integral part of a heavy title favorite. He and Pau were supposed to be the classic set of twin towers that would dominate up front. Kobe was supposed to lengthen his prime by carrying less of a burden thanks to his superstar teammates. Metta World Peace would take care of the perimeter defense. And who better to tie it all together than Steve Nash? That team was supposed to dominate.
But what happened instead was bad enough to get Mike Brown fired just a handful of games into the season. His replacement, Mike D’Antoni would restart the season so many times it’s still a running joke. Howard and Bryant butted heads so obviously that this happened:
And they thought that helped!
What’s wild is that if that team had somehow figured it all out and had some playoff success, fans would’ve been perfectly happy to look back at that moment and claim that sure, a staged joke of a picture definitely helped turn around the relationship of three people who seemed to openly loathe working together.
The point of all this is to say: In sports, all that really matters is that the athlete makes the fan feel good. It’s how fan bases look back actual legal transgression so long as the athlete is good enough to distract them from it. So if Howard wants to make good on this second chance, all he’ll have to do is help the Lakers win.
Will it maybe take longer for fans to come around on him specifically? Sure. But if the Lakers live up to or exceed expectations, fans will forgive Howard for whatever it is they held against him in the first place. It’s really that simple.