That’s why Howard is one of three players — along with Mo Speights and Joakim Noah — that will be working out for the Los Angeles Lakers this week, after Howard was already given permission to speak with L.A. over the last few days.
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN had the scoop:
Howard is under contract with Memphis, but they’re letting him explore opportunities elsewhere. Grizzlies would gladly work on a buyout with him. https://t.co/4BQDH1Hzjm— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) August 20, 2019
Why would the Grizzlies be so happy to do so? Well for one thing, this is Dwight Howard we’re talking about. For another, they’re fairly set at center. They could also save a bit of cash — always a consideration for small market teams — by cutting Howard, but only if another team actually signs him:
Howard is owed $5.6M by Memphis. The Grizzlies would recoup $559K in a set-off if they waived Howard without a buyout and he signed with another team for the $2.6M vet minimum exception. https://t.co/qKw3nUxbpz— Bobby Marks (@BobbyMarks42) August 20, 2019
All this probably means that Memphis would be happy to move on from Howard, but only if they can guarantee another team will pick him up, because if that doesn’t happen, they don’t save any money. That would explain why rather that just buying out a player they clearly don’t want, the Grizzlies want to make sure he finds a new landing spot first, hence them letting him work out for the Lakers.
There are arguments to be made that Howard isn’t the best option for the Lakers — I would personally lean towards Noah — but he is at the very least a decent pickup for a team that suddenly finds itself searching for center depth in mid-August. At least if you remove all of the baggage that comes with him.
That’s a big if, considering how poorly his first go-round in Los Angeles went and his fairly public disdain at the time for former Rob Pelinka client Kobe Bryant. There is also the small matter of Howard doing this “I learned my lesson, I’m a different player and will just accept my role” media tour every offseason before eventually going back to demanding post touches rather than just screening, rolling and defending in the ways that best suit his skill set.
Noah had no such issues with a bench role in Memphis last year, is a similarly big body and can shoot outside of the paint (even if he isn’t really a “floor-spacer” in the same way Cousins had the upshot to be). Still, Howard doesn’t have the same potential hangups with Lakers senior basketball adviser Kurt Rambis — who worked with Noah and Phil Jackson in New York, where there was an ugly falling out — which is apparently a thing that might matter for some reason.
Maybe playing on a contender with LeBron James and Anthony Davis — something Howard is reportedly “excited” about the prospect of — is enough to get him to stay in his lane this time. Maybe shuffling around to team after team each summer has finally taught Howard that this might be his last real chance to play a meaningful role for an NBA team. We won’t find out until and unless the Lakers work Howard out, decide they want to sign him and hope Memphis will buy him out.
Should L.A.’s brain trust decide that’s the best route for them, at least the Grizzlies’ reported willingness to move on from Howard makes it appear as though the first obstacle to a reunion with the former Lakers center will be fairly easy to hurdle.