When the Los Angeles Lakers moved to sign Dwight Howard this summer, they were desperate. The team had just lost DeMarcus Cousins in August, likely for the entire season, and needed someone to fill the void.
The Lakers entered into things cautiously. Howard had to impress the front office and Lakers stars Anthony Davis and LeBron James in a private workout and meeting at the facility. Even after doing so, Howard was given a non-guaranteed contract, something he and his camp reportedly requested in order to show the Lakers that this was a new, humbler version of Dwight than the one that arrived from and subsequently left Los Angeles in his first stint in purple and gold.
It’s safe to say Howard proved himself right. Frank Vogel has said he and JaVale McGee have given the Lakers “All-Star level” production in tandem, with both serving as huge parts of a Lakers defense that’s had success all season and blocked 20 shots the other night.
That would ultimately be Howard’s last game before the deadline to guarantee his contract, and according to Dave McMenamin of ESPN, the Lakers plan to do so:
The Lakers have until the 2 p.m. PT deadline Tuesday to waive Howard’s contract, the veteran’s minimum $2.56 million, but will not do so, league sources told ESPN, thus guaranteeing Howard for the rest of the season.
The actual NBA guarantee deadline is Friday but players must first clear the 48-hour waiver period, requiring any such moves to be made by 5 p.m. ET Tuesday.— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) January 7, 2020
This is an incredibly deserved outcome for Howard, who has clearly worked his tail off at age 34 to get into his best shape in years and make a huge difference for this team. He’s never groused about coming off the bench, and he’s constantly working on his craft, often heading out to shoot around or lift weights in Staples Center after games.
In arguably Howard’s most impressive feat, he even won over a Lakers fanbase that was at best incredibly skeptical of — and mostly had strong negative feelings about — him coming in. Howard has demonstrated seemingly endless supplies of hustle and heart on the court to not only set a positive example for his teammates, but also complete a redemption arc that James has called “wonderful,” adding that the Lakers were “lucky” to be able to land Howard at the point in the offseason in which they signed him.
The Lakers now have 15 fully guaranteed contracts on their roster, so if they do want to waive someone in order to make room for a signing like Darren Collison, they’ll have to let go of a guaranteed deal. In an outcome that was far from a certainty heading in, it appears there is almost zero chance that deal will be Howard’s. He deserves endless credit for turning his career around and earning that status in one of the coolest stories of the season.