Dwight Howard’s agent, Charles Briscoe of Briscoe Sports Group, has completed buyout with Grizzlies officials, and Howard will sign with the Lakers once he clears waivers, sources tell @TheAthleticNBA @Stadium.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) August 23, 2019
Interestingly, Howard’s contract will be non-guaranteed, meaning he’ll have to earn his spot on the team in training camp. It remains to be seen which player the Lakers will waive from their 20-man training camp roster in order to complete this move:
Lakers are entering a Howard partnership with caution. For years, he's talked about making changes in how he interacts with coaches and teammates. He's still saying those things now, but the ability to cut him without cost keeps leverage with organization. https://t.co/Q7i5NcAtJA— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) August 23, 2019
Dwight also met some Lakers players in this process. He convinced everyone that he’s genuine in wanting to play the role the Lakers need. And if not, he’ll be waived. https://t.co/39EkPqvrUj— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) August 23, 2019
Howard only just completed his workout with the Lakers on Thursday, so it appears that if all of this is coming together this quickly, then the reports that he was impressive in that workout must have been at least somewhat accurate.
Shelburne’s report above also makes it sound like Howard at least won over some of the more high-profile Lakers, which would seem to indicate that when he says he’s changed, and is willing to focus on the things he’s good at, they believed he was genuine. That may not be a guarantee things will stay that way, but it’s at least a start. And as Shelburne noted, the Lakers have all of camp to determine Howard’s sincerity. If they sense at any point that he’s not going to be a good fit, they can let him go with no cap consequences.
And that’s the thing here: While you can make an argument that Noah was the better fit overall, if Howard actually does mean what he’s saying about being willing “to play the role the Lakers need,” then he actually would seem to be able to help the team. Howard is far from the savior the Lakers thought they traded for back in 2012, but he is still an athletic big man who can catch lobs from LeBron James or take advantage of duck-ins from the dunker’s spot when Anthony Davis draws the defense’s attention.
On defense, Howard is still a decent rim protector, and more than capable of covering the paint in JaVale McGee’s stead. He’s not a Defensive Player of the Year candidate anymore, or anything close, but the Lakers shouldn’t (and probably don’t) expect him to be, either. That doesn’t mean he can’t help.
This is going to sound like a broken record, but as with everything with Howard, the success or failure of this move is going to depend on if the umpteenth time is actually the charm, and if Howard is truly willing to play a more limited role and play to his strengths in this stop, rather than demanding post-up touches by December and torpedoing locker room chemistry to the point that team after team has been ready and eager to be rid of him after one year.
Everyone deserves a second chance, but in Howard’s case his chances are probably numbering closer to double digits. But whatever the exact amount of chances he’s used up, this is almost assuredly Howard’s last one. Either he makes this work, or he’s out of the league. The Lakers at least appear to have properly approximated their leverage here and acted accordingly. They also did so quickly. How quickly fans accept one of their favorite targets for boos back as a member of the team, though, remains to be seen.