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Dwight Howard has impressed LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Frank Vogel with strong play within his role

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Dwight Howard isn’t back, but he’s definitely better than anyone expected him to be for the Lakers.

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Los Angeles Lakers v San Antonio Spurs Photos by Logan Riely/NBAE via Getty Images

In 2006, Warner Bros. released “Superman Returns,” which at the time was the first Superman movie made in nearly 20 years. The Brandon Routh-led iteration wasn’t as well-received as the 1978 original with Christopher Reeve, but, generally speaking, it was still an enjoyable film.

The same can be said of Dwight Howard, who — despite not being the All-Star caliber center he was when he first played for the Los Angeles Lakers — has been a pleasant surprise thus far.

Through six games with the Lakers, Howard has the highest net rating on the team at +25.3, which is nearly double than the second-highest on the team (Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, +13.5). He’s also averaging a team-high field goal percentage of 79.2%, and is ranked fourth in the league in total blocks with 14.

He’s been great, and with each game he’s looked better. For example, on Sunday against the San Antonio Spurs, he was a steadying force for the Lakers at center with 14 points, 2 blocks and a season-high 13 rebounds — six of which came in the fourth quarter.

Without Howard’s effort on both ends of the floor, it’s hard to imagine how the Lakers would have left the AT&T center with a win. After the game, LeBron James gave Howard a shout out in his walk-off interview (via Spectrum SportsNet):

”Any time we missed, Superman was there to clean up the offensive glass. Tip dunks, lobs, everything. He was great tonight.”

James also showed Howard some love on his Instagram after the game:

James was far from the only person to sing Howard’s praises, though. Howard’s partner in the front court Anthony Davis also credited him for helping the Lakers pull the win out (via Spectrum Sportsnet):

“He played well. He played extremely well. He’s been playing well as of late. Game after game he’s making big plays... Had a couple rebounds and some huge blocks and made some big plays on the offensive end. He’s playing well for us, and every time he’s on the floor he always seems to do something huge for us.”

In the 30 minutes the three-man lineup of James, Davis and Howard have played together, they’ve posted a net rating of +44.4 and allowed just 76.2 points per 100 possessions. Compare that to the three-man lineup of James, Davis and JaVale McGee, who’ve posted a +1.4 net rating in 71 minutes together.

Howard hasn’t been a star, but he’s been a star in his role, which is what has impressed his new head coach, Frank Vogel:

”What I really love is that he’s bought into his role on this team, which is really different than any role he’s had in the past. He’s being a star in his role, he’s dominating on the defensive end and on the glass... Offensively he’s a force rolling to the basket and you have to hit him on the glass. He was terrific and a big part of the win.”

Obviously, it’s too early in the season to say Howard is “back,” but there’s a large enough sample size to give Lakers fans reason to believe that his recent production is sustainable, health permitting.

Is Howard the best version of Superman we’ve seen? No, but is he good and fun to watch? Absolutely, and right now, that’s all he needs to be.

For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow this author on Twitter at @RadRivas.