Yes, folks. It’s 2019 and the Los Angeles Lakers are seriously considering signing Dwight Howard. Again.
The Lakers’ big free-agent signing of the offseason, DeMarcus Cousins, waved goodbye to his 2019-20 season after tearing his ACL while practicing Thursday, leaving the Lakers both short of centers and short of options to replenish themselves. Rumors abound that Howard is one of those options.
Another rumored option is Joakim Noah, who is expected to become an unrestricted free agent after the Memphis Grizzlies cut ties with him. However, the fact that Howard-to-L.A. is even on the table is a microcosm of how far the Lakers have fallen since the start of the decade, when they stood triumphant on top of the NBA with back-to-back titles.
Right around then is when Howard first arrived in L.A., along with Steve Nash, as the Lakers forged one of the first of the decade’s potential NBA “superteams”. Right from the start, everything backfired. Howard struggled to work together with Kobe Bryant, the latter criticizing his lack of effort even as Howard played through a torn labrum and a bad back. The Lakers were easily swept in the first round of the 2012-13 playoffs by the Spurs, and Howard got himself ejected from the fourth game – their last playoff game to date.
Howard left for Houston the following season, leaving a disappointing legacy in Tinseltown. While he certainly wasn’t the weakest component of the team’s underwhelming season (hello, Steve Nash), his beef with Kobe Bryant will forever be synonymous with the year that kickstarted the Lakers’ fall from relevance.
Now, at 33 years old, Howard is well past his prime and seemingly as fragile as fine china, with a history of injuries to his back, hamstring, glutes, and labrum. His points per game fell from 22.9 in 2010-11 – with the Orlando Magic – to 12.8 points per game last season with the Washington Wizards, a total disaster of a year where he only appeared in the first nine games and never returned.
After the Wizards traded him to Memphis, Washington general manager Tommy Sheppard called it, “the quickest trade I ever made.” Not exactly a glowing recommendation letter for the man once dubbed “Superman”.
Clearly the Lakers still see something in him. As did the Atlanta Hawks, Charlotte Hornets, and Washington Wizards before them, as well as the Lakers themselves. Perhaps by some miracle the old Dwight Howard will re-emerge this season, if he plays at all. However, if the past few seasons are any indication, it doesn’t seem likely.