While in some ways the Lakers bringing back Dwight Howard in free agency was an acknowledgement that they never should have went away from him in the first place, the version of Howard they’re getting back may not be an exact carbon copy of the one that left.
The Superman that left Los Angeles last offseason was basically only on the floor to dunk the ball, block shots and take hard fouls as the team’s designated enforcer. But like an alt-universe Superman who looks mostly the same on the surface but has a few key differences burbling beneath the surface due to different experiences than the one we’ve come to know, this version of Howard returns to Los Angeles with one thing on his mind: Shooting threes.
Okay, fine, maybe that’s not the only thing on his mind. After all, Howard has said all the right things about sacrifice, and doing whatever it takes to win a championship. It’s just also pretty obvious that he wouldn’t mind getting to shoot a few threes along the way.
This has been clear since the moment Howard showed up to his re-introductory press conference last month. While streaming on Instagram Live that day, Howard took new teammate Wayne Ellington aside, exclaiming that Ellington is “one of the greatest shooters” before adding “he’s gonna help me with my shot this year.”
“Absolutely, we’re gonna get him right,” Ellington said, laughing.
“I’m gonna be shooting like him,” Howard added.
“He’s shooting 40 (percent) from three this year,” Ellington quipped back.
When asked about Howard’s chances to actually reach that mark at Media Day this week, Ellington said they were joking around at the time, but was nonetheless impressed with what he saw from Howard during the team’s minicamp in Las Vegas last weekend.
“I saw him shooting a little bit, and he impressed me,” Ellington told Spectrum SportsNet. “I think you’re going to see him make more threes than you’ve ever seen him make, and probably take more.”
Taking more threes would not be a high bar to clear. Neither would making more, really. Last season with the Sixers, Howard attempted 20 triples, making just five. The prior year with the Lakers he went 3-5 from deep, and had never taken more than seven total threes in a season before last year. He’s shot 14-88 (15.9%) from behind the arc in his 17 years in the NBA.
But it’s clear that showing he’s more versatile than his reputation is on Howard’s mind, from the videos he’s posted featuring all his makes from deep...
... to his latest Instagram live stream session, in which he exclaimed that “LeBron said that if I get two blocks I can (take) a 3-pointer... I’m finna try and get nine blocks, every game!”
James himself confirmed a (slightly revised) version of that edict, commenting “2 blocks per half and he gets his Trey ball off” underneath a reposted version of a tweet summarizing what Howard said.
Howard himself is predisposed to hyperbole and enthusiasm, but he’s also an introspective sort when caught in the right mood. And on Saturday, he was, and while speaking to the media after the Lakers’ fourth day of training camp practices, he made it clear that any Lakers fans who were panicking that he was suddenly going to try and turn himself into solely a stretch big can relax.
“It’s not like I can’t do it (shoot threes), but I’ve been asked to do other things. So I understand that that’s what the team needs, so I do that. But that don’t mean you don’t work on your craft. Because you never know what position you’ll be put in in a game,” Howard said.
“You’re always working and trying to become a master of all things,” Howard continued. “Obviously they don’t need me to shoot threes every night, but when we work on these drills I’m gonna do it, because I’m going to get that shot in a game, and I’ve always got to prepare myself for what’s ahead. I know people might think (mocking voice) ‘that’s Dwight, ohhhhh he made a three.’ But I know how to shoot the ball, and I’m not afraid to shoot.”
Because he’s Dwight Howard, however, he couldn’t end his lengthy explainer of his philosophy without a punchline.
“But ‘The Masked Singer’ helped me out,” Howard laughed, referring to his appearance on the show as a singing, mascot-costume-style octopus last week. “The Octopus got it out of me!”
So, like singing in an octopus costume on national television, Dwight Howard is not going to shoot threes every day. But much like when he gamely belted out “Tutti Frutti” while dancing during his “Masked Singer” appearance, Howard is going to give 3-point shots his all when he gets the opportunity.
And hey, if it actually leads to him getting nine blocks in a game? The Lakers should let him fire away.