Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka said it’s unclear whether Howard will join the team in Orlando and said there is an “extenuating circumstance” surrounding his return. Pelinka is referring to the mother of Howard’s six-year-old son, Melissa Rios, who passed away at 31.
“Dwight is another player of ours who has an extenuating circumstance in addition to some of the social justice messaging he’s been doing, which we’re supportive of. One of his sons, a 6-year-old son, did lose tragically his mother several weeks ago,” Pelinka said. “We have been working very closely, and I’ve been in contact with Dwight often and his agent. As you guys know, there was an opt out date that Dwight did not give notice that he was opting out. We’re going to continue to work through those extenuating circumstances with Dwight, support him, support his 6-year-old son and hope for the best that he’d be a part of our roster in Orlando. But that will be a continued process.”
Howard spoke of her passing in May, saying it had been hard for him and his family.
“I’ve had some things happen in my personal life that has been difficult to really handle,” Howard said, per ESPN. “My son’s mom, she had passed away a month and a half ago and it’s extremely difficult for me to try to understand how to talk to my son, who’s 6 years old, just about the whole situation.
“It’s bittersweet because I do want to play basketball, but my son right now needs me more than anything,” Howard added.
Pelinka said the team has been in contact with Howard and are working through it. He hasn’t opted out of the continuation of the season, per Pelinka.
Dwight Howard Has Been Outspoken Against NBA Restart
Bradley also cited family when it came to sitting out, opting to with his youngest son, Liam, as he recovers from respiratory illnesses.
“There are some things that are bigger than basketball, you never know what is going on with guys’ families,” Lakers veteran Danny Green said on his Inside the Green Room podcast.
Along with his personal issues, Howard and Bradley were among the players who cited social change as a reason for avoiding an NBA restart. Howard delivered a particularly powerful statement to CNN.
“Basketball, or entertainment period, isn’t needed at this moment, and will only be a distraction. Sure it might not distract us, the players, but we have resources at hand [the] majority of our community don’t have,” Howard said. “And the smallest distraction for them can start a trickle down effect that may never stop. Especially with the way the climate is now. I would love nothing more than to win my very first NBA Championship. But the unity of my people would be an even bigger championship, that’s just to (sic) beautiful to pass up. What better time than now for us to be focusing on our families. This is a rare opportunity that, I believe, we as a community should take full advantage of.”
Lakers Running Out of Time for Replacement
If Howard does indeed back out of Orlando, it would put the Lakers in a jam in terms of finding a replacement. In fact, they would not be able to do so after June 30 at 11:59 ET.
Howard has had a resurgent season back in Los Angeles, providing a spark at the center position off the bench with 7.5 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game. His production would be hard to replace but veterans Nene or Pau Gasol — who has been vocal for a reunion with the Lakers — could be quick turnaround options if the team chose to fill the spot.