Dwight Howard is healthy and rejuvenated, and could be playing a big role with the Los Angeles Lakers this season — if he can behave.
The team just signed Howard to a non-guaranteed contract after the likely season-ending injury to DeMarcus Cousins left a big hole in their frontcourt. The Lakers have been trying to rapidly rebuild after a disappointing first year of the LeBron James era and made one of the summer’s biggest moves in trading for Anthony Davis, but the ACL tear that Cousins suffered while doing some offseason workouts put a dent in those plans.
As CBS Sports noted, the Lakers could be counting on Howard to fill an important role this year.
“The Lakers signed Cousins and JaVale McGee with the expectation that each would play approximately half of the available minutes at center,” the report noted. “McGee played 22.3 minutes per game last year, while Cousins played 25.7, adding up to 48 minutes exactly. Without Cousins, the Lakers need to fill more than half of the game’s minutes at that position.”
After missing nearly all of last season due to injury, Howard seems ready to fill that larger role. Silver Screen and Roll noted that Howard looked great in workouts and is reportedly entering this season in great shape, looking to regain his All-Star form. Other reports described him as “rejuvenated” after missing last season.
The new stint gives Howard a chance to prove that he can play at that same level again — which Cousins was hoping he could do this season after missing most of last year — and also to move beyond his forgettable first run with the Lakers. As Shams Charania of The Athletic reported, Howard wants redemption after his hopes at winning a title with the Lakers at the end of Kobe Bryant’s tenure ended with one disappointing season.
— Complex Sports (@ComplexSports) August 24, 2019
Despite the potential for Howard to play a big role with the Lakers this year, it appears the team will have him on a very short leash. As Silver Screen and Roll noted, the Lakers still have the ability to cut Howard without suffering a salary cap penalty, and had been looking at some of the other available free agents before signing Howard, so it was clear the team had (or still has) other options.
Both Dwight Howard and the Los Angeles Lakers seem aware of this. As ESPN reported, the team told Howard prior to his signing that he will be shipped out of Los Angeles if he causes any problems with the team.