After much speculation about his status, Dwight Howard will meet the Los Angeles Lakers in Orlando and play in the resumed NBA season.
Lakers center Dwight Howard told @TheAthleticNBA @Stadium today he has decided to play in restarted NBA season, join the team on Thursday in Orlando, and will donate his remaining game checks to his non-profit campaign Breathe Again.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) July 7, 2020
Dwight Howard on @donlemon Monday night: “I feel like we have a great opportinuty, the Lakers do, for winning the title this year ... Yes, I will be joining my team in Orlando.” He says he will donate the salary he earns in the bubble to the charity Breathe Again.— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) July 7, 2020
That’s roughly $700K in a donation for Dwight Howard. https://t.co/UdbkEQCK3T— Bobby Marks (@BobbyMarks42) July 7, 2020
Lakers center Dwight Howard tells @TheAthletic @Stadium: “My NBA salary and platform, while in the bubble, will be used to ignite a breath of fresh air into the community.” Full statement: pic.twitter.com/u4JlQ7q1ud— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) July 7, 2020
Howard had publicly advocated for the NBA to cancel or postpone the season in light of the civil unrest across the country, but there was optimism that he would still finish the campaign. It seems that optimism was well-placed, and the Lakers won’t have a massive hole to fill at center.
Howard will also financially contribute to the movement he fought for with the money he will make in Orlando, which seems to be a compromise he’s fine with, in addition to the steps the NBA plans to take. It should go without saying, but Howard’s efforts are commendable.
In 62 appearances for the Lakers, Howard has averaged 7.5 points on 73.2% shooting from the field, 7.4 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game while averaging a career-low 19.2 minutes per game. He’s also posted a defensive rating of 102, which is the third-best defensive rating on the team behind JaVale McGee and Anthony Davis, according to Basketball Reference. His production will be a boon for the team.
With Howard deciding to play, the Lakers won’t have a hole to fill at the center position behind McGee, which is good news, because the team has enjoyed success with two traditional centers this season. And as much as we all probably expected to see more of Anthony Davis at the five in the postseason, this kind of abbreviated ramp up to the season may leave Frank Vogel going deeper into his rotation, making big man depth even more valuable for the Lakers.
With Howard’s decision, now the Lakers can go with what works, and don’t have to worry about choosing between names like DeMarcus Cousins, Nene Hilario and Ryan Anderson on the replacement player free agency market. That continuity should be a bonus for them after already losing Avery Bradley, who chose to sit out of the resumed season.
This story will be updated as more information becomes available.