Seven years ago, the Los Angeles Lakers traded Andrew Bynum, a conditional first-round pick and a conditional second-round pick for Dwight Howard, a six-time All-Star and three-time Defensive Player of the Year. At the time, it was seen as a league-shifting move, and put the Lakers among the favorites to win the 2013 NBA Finals.
However, after struggling to mesh with Kobe Bryant and find his role within the team, Howard left Los Angeles the following summer, sending the Lakers into a rebuild that has taken them seven years to recover from. Luckily, they came out of the trade alright, only having to surrender three second-round picks, none of which have blossomed into impactful NBA players. The fans, on the other hand, still have hard feelings.
Every time Howard has visited Staples Center since 2013, he’s been mercilessly booed by Lakers fans. Despite this, the 33-year-old center would be open to a return to Los Angeles, according to Arash Markazi of the Los Angeles Times (emphasis mine):
The Grizzlies reportedly are trying to trade Howard, and if they can’t strike a deal, will waive him before the start of the season. Howard isn’t sure where he’ll wind up, but said he wouldn’t mind giving Los Angeles, whether that’s with the Lakers or Clippers, another shot.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I do love L.A.,” Howard said. “Staples Center is going to be rocking this season. When I played there it was rocking every night. The atmosphere is crazy, not just for the Lakers but the Clippers too. I just think all the hard work they’ve put in is paying off now. They’ve always been viewed as the Lakers’ little brother, but they decided to stand out and be different and you have to thank guys like Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and Chris Paul for laying the foundation for this team, and then what Doc [Rivers] has done has been great. This is just all that hard work paying off.”
From the sound of it, Howard would probably prefer to sign with the Clippers, and it’s safe to assume Lakers fans would be okay with that.
If Howard was still the dominant big man he was when he left Los Angeles in 2013, perhaps Lakers fans would be willing to let bygones be bygones, but Howard hasn’t been able to be a positive for a team for several years now. It’s for that reason he’s been traded seven times since 2016.
Maybe Howard can be a difference-maker for a contending team in the right role, but the Lakers probably shouldn’t be the team to give Howard his fifth second chance with Cousins, McGee and Davis expected to soak up most of the minutes at center. In other words, Howard shouldn’t expect billboards from Lakers fans this time around.