Reports: Dwight Howard to sign with Lakers in hopes of bouncing back from 'rock bottom'

Jack Baer
Injured Washington Wizards center Dwight Howard practices before the Wizards face the Denver Nuggets in the first half of an NBA basketball game Sunday, March 31, 2019, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
After losing DeMarcus Cousins to a torn ACL, the Lakers are turning to Dwight Howard. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Dwight Howard is headed back to Los Angeles.

The veteran big man plans to sign a one-year, $2.6 million deal with the Los Angeles Lakers after finalizing a contract buyout with the Memphis Grizzlies, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania. The deal is reportedly non-guaranteed.

The 33-year-old Howard was acquired by the Grizzlies in a cap-clearing trade last month with the Washington Wizards, who received C.J. Miles in return. The Grizzlies never intended to keep Howard for the season and were apparently unable to find a trade partner that desired Howard.

Per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Howard gave up $2.6 million of his $5.6 million guaranteed salary to Memphis in the buyout. He can earn that amount back if he’s still on the Lakers’ roster past early January.

Dwight Howard and the Lakers reunite

The deal will return Howard to a team where had a disastrous first stint. The center burned several bridges in his quest to force a trade from the Orlando Magic to the Lakers, only to struggle with injuries and conditioning, and squabble with Kobe Bryant over usage. Howard eventually left the Lakers after one season to sign a max contract with the Houston Rockets.

Despite that history, the Lakers are still willing to bring Howard back after losing DeMarcus Cousins for the season due to a torn ACL. Howard now projects to be the team’s back-up big man behind JaVale McGee, the only other center currently on the roster. The team had also reportedly considered bringing in Joakim Noah.

Howard has shown he can still put up decent numbers as a center when he’s on the court, having posted 15.0 points, 12.4 rebounds and and 1.4 blocks in 29.8 minutes per game while shooting .588 from the field. Of course, health has been a significant concern as he missed nearly all of last season with a butt injury.

The Lakers won’t need much from Howard beyond rebounding, interior defense and finishing inside the paint with LeBron James and Anthony Davis running the show. The question becomes whether Howard is willing to accept that smaller role.

Howard on thin ice at this point of his career

It’s quite understandable the Lakers would want to limit their risk with Howard through a non-guaranteed deal, given the former All-Star’s turbulent track record over the last few years.

Howard is now set to play for his fifth team in five years, having left town after each season with a diminished reputation. He’s consistently talked about how he’s personally changed with each recent stop, but the results have still disappointed.

According to Charania, Howard got an in with the Lakers after convincing top assistant coach and former Olympics teammate Jason Kidd that he had actually changed. Howard was also reportedly able to lobby Lakers players and officials by admitting he had hit “rock bottom” last year.

From The Athletic:

League sources said Howard had a convincing and emotional meeting with the players and Lakers officials, explaining how he had reached rock bottom a season ago and needed to find a new mindset in his life. On and off the floor. He was not the teammate he needed to be in playing for three teams in the past three years. He did not take the game seriously enough, he did not understand what was needed to turn the corner.

One source told Charania that Howard looked “amazing” during a workout with the Lakers on Thursday, and he also reportedly surprised officials by showing up to the Lakers’ facility a day early for an impromptu workout.

Despite all his struggles, Howard is still on NBA roster and has his best shot at a championship ring in years. We’ll see if he’s able to make it work this time.

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