Even if Dwight Howard wasn’t an asset for the Lakers in every single playoff series on the way to their 17th NBA championship, he still dramatically outplayed the non-guaranteed, veteran’s minimum contract they signed him to as an emergency replacement for DeMarcus Cousins during the 2019 offseason.
But as a result of his stellar play off the bench, it’s not shocking that Howard will be a relatively hot commodity in free agency, and it’s similarly unsurprising that while he and the Lakers have interest in a reunion coming back, the 34-year-old also wants a contract more commensurate with his contributions.
It remains to be seen if the Lakers will be the team to offer him said raise, but until free agency begins, they’re at least letting Howard know that he’s wanted. Ramona Shelburne of ESPN said during an appearance on the radio show “Mason and Ireland” that the front office has been in constant contact with Howard so far during the offseason:
“Dwight Howard is another guy the Lakers have to decide on. I’m told they want to bring him back, they call him three times a week to let him know ‘hey, we want you.’”
In my imagination, I now believe that Rob Pelinka pulls out his phone three times a week, dials up Dwight Howard, just says “hey, we want you,” adds nothing else, and then hangs up. I will absolutely not have my mind changed on this no matter what “facts” or “common sense” you present me. This is now head canon.
But in all seriousness, bringing Howard back would be a great move for the Lakers if the price is right. He obviously far outproduced his salary last season, but the Lakers may be (justifiably) hesitant about doling out a multi-year deal to an aging player who just had an outlier-level good season when he was as motivated as ever. They may also think there are bargain-bin big men they can get similar production out of because of how much easier LeBron James and Anthony Davis make things on their centers, so how realistic the Lakers’ desire for Howard turning into actually bringing him back will likely depend on the market set for him by those other interested teams.
With the Lakers only having limited money to supplement their roster for a title defense, they have to be cautious about who they spend on. And with Davis set to mostly play center when games really matter, they may have to use their resources elsewhere, no matter how much they enjoy having Howard around, or how many calls they put in to tell him they appreciate him. But if offers for him are less lucrative than he hopes, maybe there is a way he and the Lakers can find a middle ground and consummate their hoped-for reunion with a contract. We’ll get a better idea of how things are looking when free agency begins on Friday.