Dwight Howard’s Redemption Season Is Well Underway

(Image/Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

It is rare that anyone admits to being wrong about anything, especially in this social media dominant era. Well, all of this has gone out of the window after the first 4 games of the Los Angeles Lakers’ season due to the incredible play of none other than center, Dwight Howard.

I will admit that I was no President of the Dwight Howard fan-club after his less-than-memorable stay with the purple and gold in the 2012/13 season. In fact, I was downright upset the Lakers even signed Howard over available players like Joakim Noah. Yet, while Noah has not been heard of so far in this early season, Howard is making headlines, and for all the right reasons.

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In my defense, there was absolutely no way I could have seen such a resurgence coming. Before being signed by the Lakers this past off-season, Howard had been on 6 teams in 3 years (Houston Rockets, Atlanta Hawks, Charlotte Hornets, Brooklyn Nets, Washington Wizards, and Memphis Grizzlies).

Howard had a reputation for being stuck in the past NBA, wishing to be fed in the post rather than reshaping his role to fit the modern game, by focusing on defense, rebounding, and rim-running. This fact seemed to show in that Howard didn’t appear to have been missed with any franchise he departed.

Last season in Washington consisted of him playing in just 9 games before missing the rest of the season following spinal surgery. After exercising his player option following the 2018 season, Howard was traded to the Grizzlies who promptly waived him. Just when it appeared Howard’s career may very well be over, the Lakers stepped in out of nowhere to sign him for the 2019/20 season, following the injury to DeMarcus Cousins.

Upon his return to Los Angeles, Howard uttered the same cliché phrases he had spoken previously when joining a new team. There are multiple video montages of him stating for his new team how much he was looking forward to having a “fresh start,” and accepting his role – whatever it may be.

Time after time, such rhetoric proved to be less than genuine. So forgive me for not quite buying into such professions of change and willingness to do whatever it took to win regardless of role from Howard.

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However, after the first 4 games of the season on his second go-around with the Lakers, it is undeniable that I will write the 5 words I never thought would come from myself: Dwight Howard has been incredible.

Not only has he truly bought into his role, he is excelling in it in ways heretofore unimagined. The eye test alone would be proof enough of Howard’s effectiveness. His body is in incredible shape, as it appears he has shed weight he has carried in years past. His energy on the court has been apparent. Howard’s defensive presence has propelled multiple second half runs leading to victories. He is blocking shots like he is still playing in Orlando.

Howard even switched onto, and stifled, rookie point guard Ja Morant in the Lakers’ recent win over the Memphis Grizzlies. On multiple occasions Howard’s play has spurred the Staples Center crowd to give him standing ovations. What’s next? A round of applause from cats to dogs?

What’s more is that the numbers resoundingly back up what the eye test is showing in regard to Howard’s play. Since he has been coming off the bench, his counting stats don’t exactly jump off of the page. In 20 minutes per game, he is averaging 5.8 points a game, 7 rebounds, 2.3 blocks, and 1.5 assists, on 68.8% shooting. However, the more advanced numbers show the impact he has had so far on Laker success.

For instance, Howard has an unbelievable defensive rating of 68.4 (points allowed per 100 possessions). The Lakers are also outscoring teams by 27.9 points per 100 possessions when he is on the floor. Howard’s best performance was against the Charlotte Hornets where he scored 16 points on 8-for-8 shooting, 10 rebounds, and 4 blocks, a stat line I didn’t believe he was still capable of having in a meaningful NBA game.

Lakers Head Coach, Frank Vogel, recently praised Howard for being a “star in his role”. It’s very early in the season and a lot can happen from now until playoff time. 4 games is certainly no sample size to go on. But how many people thought Howard would give 4 games like these all year, much less in the first 4?

If Dwight Howard’s play continues on this current course, he won’t just be a star in his role, he’ll simply be a star. Oh yes, I’m certainly eating crow in a big way, but it has never tasted so good. Here’s hoping this continues.

By Frank Gaulden (@FrankGaulden)


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Trade Options For The Lakers

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Most Laker fans seem satisfied with the season so far, despite starting 2-5, the team have improved considerably finding themselves lurking in the midpoint of the Western Conference playoff picture, within touching distance of top spot. Regardless of this, fans do have an eye on prospective trades to improve the roster further. It appears that the Lakers hierarchy may be having similar thoughts, too.

December 15th is the important date and is the date that it seems every NBA fan has been waiting patiently for. This is when players who were signed in summer free agency are eligible to be traded. Trade rumours and speculation have been spiraling over the past few weeks, and whilst many names have been linked to join the Lakers, some have been touted as potential trade chips. One name, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, seems to be the centerpiece of any trade rumour, mainly due to his flexible 1-year $12 million contract.

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It seems that Caldwell-Pope may be open to a move away from Los Angeles, as reports suggest that his representatives are working to find the 25-year-old a better situation as he aims to secure a lucrative long-term contract in 2019 free agency. The Philadelphia 76ers and Houston Rockets have been named as possible destinations for Caldwell-Pope.

A trade may be looming, with multiple names rumoured to be joining the Lakers. I am sure more will be associated in the forthcoming weeks as we fast-approach the New Year, although for the time being we are going to review some of the names touted to join forces with LeBron James in Los Angeles.

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Trevor Ariza

As first reported by ESPN insider Adrian Wojnarowski earlier on in the week, former Laker Trevor Ariza could be a possible option via a three-team trade. The struggling Pheonix Suns will not be short of choice when it comes to moving the 2009 NBA Champion, as contending teams look to bolster their rosters. However, it is evidently clear that Pheonix will be looking for assets in return.

Ariza would be a welcomed addition to the Lakers, bringing a veteran presence to the team. As a defensive wing with length that can drain the three-pointer, many can see why the 33-year-old could contribute to a Lakers team that desire to make noise come playoff time. In almost every scenario, Caldwell-Pope would be included for salary purposes, possibly to the third team, as Ariza is on a 1-year $15 million contract. The question remains, what further assets would it take to tempt the Suns to part ways with Ariza?

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John Wall

I’m not too sure where to start with this one. A few weeks back, it was rumoured that the Lakers had offered numerous young assets and draft picks for the 28-year-old point guard of the Washington Wizards. Apparently Lonzo Ball, Caldwell-Pope (for obvious reasons) and a third player believed to be out of Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart and Kyle Kuzma, had been involved in trade discussions.

Undoubtedly, Wall is a star player and could potentially fit well alongside LeBron James, although Wall is in the final year of his current contract ($19.1 million) before a huge $170 million extension kicks in. The extension, strongly considered the worst contract in the NBA, will lock him in until 2023 and see Wall being paid $47.3 million at 32-years-old.

Washington look in disarray at the moment and are potentially looking to rebuild, therefore a trade centered around the Lakers’ young assets and draft picks would be appealing for the Wizards. On the other hand, the Lakers may not be willing to break up their young core to take on Wall and that enormous contract.

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Bradley Beal

Staying with the Washington Wizards, their star shooting guard Bradley Beal may be a more sustainable option for the Lakers. Much like the John Wall speculation, to get Beal to Los Angeles would most certainly involve breaking up the young core, with future draft picks being included also. Beal has two more years remaining on his current contract beyond this season, that will see him being paid $27.1 million for the 2019/20 season and $28.7 million in his final year.

Obviously, Beal is a more appealing option financially and is still only 25-years-old. This move would provide the Lakers with a much-needed shooter and could be deemed more of a long-term option for the team. Beal has a much broader market than Wall, so if the Lakers come knocking, they’ll most likely not be the only team.

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Kemba Walker

Now this one would be a great fit. Not many reports have specified that the Lakers are interested in the Charlotte Hornets star, but he could be an option for sure. Walker is having a fantastic season so far, averaging 25.8 points per game, 4.4 rebounds, 6.2 assists and 1.4 steals. In the closing stages of games, the Lakers have been heavily reliant on LeBron James, signing Walker would immediately solve that issue.

Walker is in the final year of his current contract and becomes an unrestricted free agent in the summer, so the Lakers would not have to give up as much asset-wise as the options noted above but would need assurances of Walker signing long-term. Although, this trade would under most circumstances involve giving up a young asset, at the very least. Is it worth pulling the trigger to acquire a player of Kemba Walker’s pedigree?

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Anthony Davis

The thought of this one has most Laker fans drooling. A generational talent, Davis would certainly involve clearing house as the majority of the young core would be moved on, along with veterans to match salaries and numerous draft picks.

Earlier this month, a trade scenario was reported by Brandon Robinson that included three teams, the Lakers and Pelicans along with the Orlando Magic. It was reported that Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Caldwell-Pope would be the players involved, with the Lakers asking for Elfrid Payton or Ian Clark in return. In regards to draft picks, Robinson reported that “next year’s first-round pick is involved and most likely multiple picks”.

Rob Pelinka is apparently working on numerous trade packages to acquire Davis. Who, if he was to be acquired, would make the Lakers a contender moving forward and a legitimate threat to the Golden State Warriors. However, the Pelicans currently have the 25-year-old under contract until 2021 and are not forced to part ways with their superstar unless Davis states his intent to play elsewhere.

Obviously, apart from Trevor Ariza, all of the above scenarios are dependent on whether Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka want to keep the young core intact and whether they want to remain with cap flexibility going into 2019 free agency. A free agency period which boasts names such as Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Klay Thompson, and so on.

What do you think? Let us know on Twitter over at @lakersfanclubuk.

By Matt Evans (@mattyyyevans)