When the Lakers surprisingly brought back Howard on a non-guaranteed, one-year deal less than two weeks ago, people wondered what led to Los Angeles choosing the veteran center over the likes of Joakim Noah and Marreese Speights
Well, we now have the answer. Thanks to Ramona Shelburne of ESPN, the reason is none other than Anthony Davis — all because Davis doesn’t want to play center.
“The reason that Dwight is a Laker is because Anthony Davis doesn’t want to play the five. He doesn’t want to play against the big centers in the Western Conference.
He needs a big dude next to him that can eat up some of those minutes and take some of that physical pounding from Nikola Jokic or (Jusuf) Nurkic or any of the centers you want to name out West … Anthony Davis doesn’t want to be that guy, and so he had a big say in whether or not Dwight was going to be cast in this role for them.”
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Lakers Are Trying to Appease Anthony Davis
We all know that Howard is the definition of a bruiser — the guy is 6-foot-11 and built like a brick house at 265 pounds. Even though he’s not the superstar that he was at the beginning of the decade, the guy still averaged 12.5 rebounds per game in his last healthy season in 2017-18 — not much different from the 12.7 rebounds per game he’s averaged during his career.
But the difference-maker in the decision behind who the Lakers opted to go with between Howard, Noah and Speights came down to none other than Davis.
More important than the actual signing of Howard is the fact that the Lakers are willing to appease Davis and treat him as if he’s an executive hired to make personnel decisions. Although AD is a member of the Lakers for the 2019-20 season, let us not forget that he has the leverage here — he only has one year left on his deal and can easily decide to leave and enter free agency in 2020 if he’s not happy for whatever reason.
LeBron James may still be the king of basketball, but he’s on the verge of turning 35 years old and is not the future of the franchise — it’s the 26-year-old Davis.
Dwight Howard Was the Lakers’ Best Option at Center
The bottom line is this — despite Howard’s murky past in Los Angeles, he can handle opposing centers such as Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid. You know, that rare breed of centers that can still post up and bang and bruise in 2019.
Can you imagine a slim Noah — who has undergone two major surgeries in recent years — trying to guard guys a decade younger than him? Especially when he hasn’t appeared in more than 46 games in a single season since the 2014-15 campaign?
And don’t even get me started on Speights. The guy has always been a defensive liability and has always been a floor spacer — not a guy that is willing to take a beating down low.
So let’s set the record straight — Davis did not want to play at the five during the regular season, so Howard was signed to fill that role.
If Davis volunteered to play the five following DeMarcus Cousins’ season-ending ACL injury, then the Lakers probably would have had little need for Howard. They could have easily plugged LeBron at power forward and Kyle Kuzma at small forward.
Instead, Davis didn’t want to get physical down low — which is why D12 is back in Los Angeles.
Not exactly a storybook tale, but the truth hurts.