After unexpectedly losing DeMarcus Cousins for the season, the Los Angeles Lakers will explore every option there is at the center position, including an option their fans never thought the team would pursue again: Dwight Howard.
The Lakers traded for Howard in 2012 in an effort to build a contending team around a 34-year-old Kobe Bryant, but after just one disappointing season in Los Angeles, Howard signed with the Houston Rockets in free agency. Since then, he’s been booed every time he’s visited Staples Center.
Despite this, the Lakers have interest in bringing Howard back and according to Shams Charania of The Athletic, that interest is mutual:
The Lakers are expected to request permission soon to speak to Dwight Howard and there's mutual interest between the eight-time All-Star and L.A. in wake of DeMarcus Cousins' torn ACL, league sources tell @TheAthleticNBA @Stadium.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) August 18, 2019
Howard is currently under contract with the Memphis Grizzlies, so the Lakers will need receive permission to speak to him—something they reportedly plan on doing soon:
The Lakers have been patient in approach since Cousins' injury, and another accomplished veteran center on the market is Joakim Noah. Howard is expected to be eventually released by Memphis. https://t.co/mvLx2jsS8Q— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) August 18, 2019
It’s not hard to see why the Lakers have some level of interest in Howard.
Howard is an eight-time All-Star, three-time Defensive Player of the Year, two-time block champion and five-time rebound champion with career averages of 17.4 points, 12.6 rebounds and two blocks per game. Once upon a time, he was the most dominant center in the NBA.
Unfortunately, he hasn’t been that player in a while.
Although Howard is only two seasons removed from averaging 16.6 points, 12.5 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game, he’s also under a year removed from undergoing season-ending back surgery. Since 2013, Howard has had two spinal procedures done.
Beyond that, Howard has a reputation for creating unnecessary drama in the locker room, something the Lakers will already have plenty of with LeBron James on the roster.
Could Howard buy into his role as a reserve and be an impactful player? Sure. Is it possible that he has a healthy season? Maybe, but the fact that the answers to those questions aren’t definitive is probably enough reason for the Lakers to pass on Howard.