Amid the continued uncertainty regarding Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard’s availability for the NBA’s 2019-20 season restart later this month, the team’s head coach, Frank Vogel, recently suggested that the veteran big man is hoping to play, despite his apparent hesitance to do so last month.
As quoted by ESPN‘s Dave McMenamin, Vogel addressed multiple issues with reporters during a video conference call on Wednesday, including the question of whether or not Howard will suit up for the Lakers when regular-season action resumes on July 30. Last month, the 34-year-old went public about his reluctance to take part in the remainder of the 2019-20 campaign, stressing through his agent that any form of entertainment, including basketball, “isn’t needed” during such a time of social unrest.
“We’ve been in communication with Dwight the whole way with supportive phone calls and text messages,” Vogel was quoted as saying.
“We don’t know what the level of participation is going to be yet. He wants to play. We’re hopeful that he’s able to join us.”
While the Lakers signed J.R. Smith this week as a replacement for starting guard Avery Bradley, who cited family concerns when he opted out of the restart, Vogel was also cited by McMenamin as saying that the team won’t do the same for Howard if he similarly backs out. According to the head coach, the Lakers weren’t planning to omit the former three-time Defensive Player of the Year’s name from the list of individuals who will be traveling to Orlando for the restart.
“He has an extenuating circumstance that he’s working with the league on in terms of what that is ultimately going to look like,” Vogel revealed, before reiterating that the organization is “hopeful and optimistic” regarding the eight-time All-Star’s availability.
As explained by McMenamin, Howard is presently quarantined in his home state of Georgia, where he is staying with family and following the NBA’s required protocol for players who will be flying to Orlando. Specifically, the Lakers big man is taking care of his 6-year-old son, David, whose mother, Melissa Rios, died of an epileptic seizure on March 27.
Although Howard has mostly posted career-low numbers in the 2019-20 season — his first as a reserve player — he has played an important role for the Lakers, who posted a Western Conference-leading 49-14 record before the NBA went on hiatus in March. As opined by Fansided‘s Lake Show Life, losing Howard for the rest of the season might be a “bigger deal” to Los Angeles than Bradley’s decision to sit out, given the team’s perceived lack of depth at the center position.