Dwight Howard’s multiple stops in Los Angeles have produced some wildly different experiences.
Year one was, at the time, one of the most disappointing seasons despite Kobe Bryant’s final great year, culminating in Dwight — a villain to the fanbase — departing in the offseason. His return in the 2019-20 season brought with it a title as he revitalized his image and made him a fan favorite. After a one-year hiatus, he returned this season but was again a part of a woefully disappointing team, though this time with his hands far less dirty.
It leaves him in a precarious situation moving forward. Largely speaking, he’s still a fan favorite but his is certainly not nearly as effective as Father Time is catching up on him rapidly. As he enters free agency again, though, Howard is hoping for his third tenure to be the first multi-season one.
“Do I want to come back? Why would I want to leave?” Howard said during his exit interview on Monday. “I want to be cemented somewhere. I love being here, I love the fans... I would just really like an opportunity to where I can really go out and go out with a bang. I’ve only got a couple years left, so I want an opportunity where I can go out and show my skills and talent and do it in the right way, but also win. I feel like I deserve that.”
The conundrum for Howard is that, while fans may be on his side, he was ineffective for large portions of the year. While he had moments and spurts where he looked effective, even that was a version of the 2019-20 Dwight that was impactful but limited.
Aside from his year in 2018-19 when he was injured, the 60 games played by Dwight were the fewest he’d played since 2014-15. The 971 minutes played were the fewest, again aside from 2018-19, and his 6.2 points and 5.9 rebounds were career lows.
Howard was healthy this season and still struggled to both get on the court and be effective. But Howard still feels he has more to give on the court.
“Well obviously I personally still feel like I can do more and bring more, just given the opportunity,” Howard said. “But I’m grateful that I had another opportunity to come back here and play here in L.A. I know it didn’t end the way that we all hoped for and expected it to, but looking back on this season and there’s a lot to be very thankful for. I thought we ended the season yesterday with some really good energy.
“I know that it was our last game of the season and we won’t be able to compete for a championship, but just the vibe and the energy that was displayed yesterday was very positive, so I think that the future of this team will be a lot better even considering the disappointing season that we had this year.”
If open to a role further down the bench and rotation, there could be a path for Howard to return, so long as he promises not to fight his teammates anymore. But his quote doesn’t sound like someone willing to take a smaller role next season.
At the very least, though, give Dwight Howard that parade he’s spent years begging for.