Next month, 15-year veteran center Dwight Howard will have the opportunity to compete for a spot on the Los Angeles Lakers, the same team that traded a stockpile of assets for him when he was a perennial All-Star in 2013.
Howard might not the walking double-double or the defensive stalwart he was six years ago, but head coach Frank Vogel told Mike Bresnahan of Spectrum SportsNet that he’s confident the 33-year-old can still be a valuable player for the Lakers if he buys into an unfamiliar role next season (h/t @LakeShowWorld):
“Well I’m definitely confident he can play the role what we’ve laid out for him. He’s coming to the Lakers at a very different time in his career. The first time he was here, he was on top of the NBA mountain and was a bonafide superstar. Things have changed; he’s later in his career now—he’s a different person, has a different mindset. We feel really good about where he’s at as a person and he’s going to serve a different role. It’s going to be more of a role player type of role as opposed to being a lead. He understands that, he’s excited about playing that type of role on this team and what we can accomplish as a group, so we’re excited about what he’s going to bring to the table.”
Given Howard’s recent history, that might seem like one giant “if,” but Vogel said that Howard convinced the Lakers that he’s willing to step into a smaller role to help the team win before they made the decision to sign him:
“It is challenging and you have to sort of measure where they’re at mentally. Some guys are not willing to let go of that and they’re intent or still carrying the belief that they’re still the star and anything short of that is not going to work. That’s sort of what the interview process was like with Dwight when we brought him in for his workout and had conversations with him — just measuring where he is from a mindset standpoint and we feel really good about where he’s at.”
That being said, the Lakers are still proceeding with caution with Howard, as evidenced by the fact that his contract his non-guaranteed and designed to make it easy for the them to waive him at any point of the season.
Ultimately, it’s a low-risk situation for the Lakers, but one they’re surely hoping works out given their need for a center. For his sake and the team’s, let’s hope things are different for Dwight this time around.