This Website use Cookies OK

Read more Basketball News

Dwight Howard and the Lakers have nothing left to lose


First thing’s first: Dwight Howard won’t move the needle very much for any team. Second thing’s second: The Lakers should go after him anyway. They need all the help they can get.

DeMarcus Cousins has torn the ACL in his left knee, suffering his third major injury to the same leg in the past two years. A ruptured Achilles, torn quad and now a torn ACL don’t bode well for Cousins returning anywhere near the superstar he once was. And while it’s never wise to count out a player with a heart as fiery as Boogie’s, it’s a cardinal basketball sin to bet on a player with his injury history.

The Lakers signing Cousins was viewed as a low-risk, high-reward move for a star player with a chip on his shoulder. Los Angeles rolled the dice and got snake-bitten. The Lakers should roll the dice again, though, on another low-risk, high-reward project in Howard. They have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Dwight Howard would be a smart addition to the Lakers. (Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images) (Will Newton/Getty Images)

What’s Dwight Howard have left in the tank at this point anyway? His last season in Washington didn’t even last a month: Nine games in, Howard sat with a glute injury so persistent, he opted for surgery and never stepped back on the court. But even still, in those nine games, he averaged 13 points and nine rebounds. The season before, he averaged 16.6 points and 12.5 rebounds in 81 games in Charlotte. The year before that, another double-double in Atlanta. Howard can produce when he’s healthy, that much he’s proven over the years. That production, ever since he left Orlando, hasn’t added tallies to the win column. In Los Angeles, that won’t be his problem.

Boogie’s injury leaves JaVale McGee as the only big man on the Lakers roster, so adding Howard at the very least brings depth to a position of need. At the very best, Howard could be a rim protector on one end and a rim-rattler on the other. Reality is likely somewhere in the middle.

In reality, a soon-to-be 34-year-old Dwight Howard doesn’t move the needle for the Lakers very much. They don’t need it to — in fact, anything he contributes will be a pleasant surprise. Los Angeles is the Anthony Davis and LeBron James show, with James beginning to cede control to Davis as the rightful heir to the purple and gold throne. Los Angeles will go as far as James, Davis and their shooters will take them. Adding Howard to the mix doesn’t change much.

That’s the kind of low pressure environment Howard should thrive in. Yes, he can shoot elbow jumpers off the glass and occasionally put the ball on the floor to get to the rim. That’s not what the Lakers will need him to do. They need Howard to do what he does best: rebound, block shots and dunk the basketball. Those are things he can do in his sleep.

His athleticism is waning and his durability is in question. Washington was seven points worse per 100 possessions in minutes Howard spent on the floor last season, but the Wizards were a dumpster fire waiting to happen, a team competing for nothing more than Beal’s interest in a long-term contract extension. The Lakers are playing to hoist that ‘Larry O.B.’ in one of the next three years of James’ contract. That should be enough to light a fire under Howard’s glutes.

It was supposed to be enough when Howard joined Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash in Los Angeles the first time around, but egos clashed, and so did Howard’s DNA with Bryant’s. James is wired to make the best play, while Bryant’s genes steered him toward taking the best possible shot. The Lakers need all the help they can get, and Howard is not the same person he was when he left Orlando for Los Angeles the first time.

Dwight Howard, r, was a Laker in the 2012-13 season.
Dwight Howard, r, was a Laker in the 2012-13 season. (Mark J. Terrill/AP)

“I don’t have an ego. It’s dead,” he told The Athletic. “It had to die for me to be who I am."

If Howard is joining a team with championship aspirations, the ego had better be more than dead. It needs to be buried, covered in infertile soil. He can’t come in expecting a set number of shots or touches per game. He needs to do what he can to help the Lakers — or any team he joins — win games. That means protecting the paint, controlling the glass and finishing at the rim, just like the Dwight Howard of old did for the Magic.

Howard to the Lakers isn’t a done deal just yet. He’s still under contract — one year worth $5.6 million — with the Grizzlies, and Memphis is likely to seek some sort of compensation instead paying Howard to leave the team. ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne reports the Lakers’ interest is “due diligence after the Boogie injury” and that Memphis has granted multiple teams permission to speak to Howard. She also reports there’s no bad blood between Howard and Lakers management after he left them dry, and without a championship, after just one season with Bryant and Nash.

Howard has had some good showings over the past two seasons. He can still dominate a team that doesn’t have a true big man, like when he bullied the Nets for a 30-point, 30-rebound game late in the 2017-18 season, only to bully Brooklyn again with a 25-point, 17-rebound outing last season in Washington. He still has impeccable roll man instincts with the potential to thrive alongside James and Rajon Rondo, two of the best floor generals and lob passers of the era. Howard isn’t the same leaper he once was, but he’s worked a short-range jumper into his game.

He might not be perfect, but Howard may be the best the Lakers can do. And at this stage in his career, the Lakers may be the best Howard can do, too. Joakim Noah, Andrew Bogut and Greg Monroe headline the list of available bigs. Kenneth Faried is also available but drastically undersized to play the five. This is the same Lakers team, though, that watched most free agents sign elsewhere before Kawhi Leonard committed to the Los Angeles Clippers.

“It’s not perfect, but it’s the best they can do" just might be their motto, and Howard fits it to the tee.