Dwight Howard is back in Los Angeles all over again.
Shams Charania of The Athletic reports that the Lakers have struck a non-guaranteed agreement with their former center. The Lakers will sign him once he’s officially bought out by the Memphis Grizzlies.
In other words, just seven years after initially arriving in Los Angeles as the biggest star in the NBA, Howard returns as a humbled man — and can be waived at any time by the Lakers without the organization losing a bit as a result.
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN details how the leverage is completely in the Lakers’ hands — the complete opposite of when a 27-year-old Howard bolted Los Angeles in 2013 when the franchise desperately needed him to re-sign to be the face of their organization in the aftermath of Kobe Bryant’s Achilles tear.
We all know that Howard is on thin ice in his second tour in Los Angeles. And while we know Howard no longer has the leverage as he did earlier in his career, what led to the Purple and Gold taking a second chance on the former star?
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Jason Kidd ‘s Influence Led to Lakers Signing Dwight Howard
As Charania details in his article on The Athletic (subscription required), it was Hall-of-Fame guard and Lakers assistant coach Jason Kidd’s relationship with Howard that led to the Lakers choosing him over the other players who worked out for Los Angeles in the past couple of days.
“Howard and Charles Briscoe (Howard’s agent) then talked about reaching out to someone with the Lakers whom Howard shared a mutual close respect: Assistant coach Jason Kidd. Howard and Kidd played together on USA Basketball in 2007, and again for the Olympic gold medal squad in 2008. They had a solid relationship and mutual respect from their battles in the NBA.”
While Howard’s relationship with Kidd got his foot in the door, he still had to seal the deal by proving to the organization — and the players — that he has the mindset to be a role player to contribute for this team.
That he did.
“Howard’s message to Kidd and the Lakers was the same one he delivered to The Athletic in July from NBA summer league: He’s learned from the past several seasons, learned that, at age 33, he is simply one of the guys now. Howard believes he can contribute at a high level for any NBA team, but the eight-time All-Star also understands he has to focus on rebounding, defense, blocking shots, finishing around the rim and simply playing whenever he is asked. He has accepted it — as much as those in the basketball community have doubted his words.
Kidd became convinced about Howard’s newfound awakening.”
Dwight Howard Still Had to Convince Lakers He’s Humbled
Remember — the Lakers worked out Joakim Noah and Marreese Speights at the same time they did Howard. Noah had a healthy and productive campaign with the Grizzlies last season, appearing in 42 games while averaging over 15 minutes per contest. Like Howard, he’s an accomplished veteran with a Defensive Player of the Year award and is a two-time All-Star. In the case of Speights, he’s a former NBA champion who has been in more playoff battles than either Howard or Noah over recent seasons.
There is no doubt that Howard’s built-in relationship with Kidd gave him an advantage. At the end of the day, he still had to seal it with his workout — which he aced, according to Charania.
“When Thursday arrived, Howard had a workout in which the Lakers believed he looked healthy and fit. “Amazing,” said a source present in the gym.”
Furthermore, he also had to seal it with his teammates — guys like LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Rajon Rondo and Javale McGee. He aced that, too.
“The Lakers had gathered momentum in their own research into Howard over the past week, but needed the roster to be fully on board. Howard won over the players in the locker room, including James and Davis, for his approach and mindset in the visit, sources said.”
He may not be DeMarcus Cousins, but Howard brings things to the table that “Boogie” did not. For example, the rebounding prowess and his ability to pick-and-roll his way at will.
Howard wanted his chance at redemption in Los Angeles and he’ll get it this season.
But remember this: One more misstep by the eight-time All-Star and he’s gone — for good.
Follow D.J. Siddiqi on Twitter @DJSiddiqi