The Los Angeles Lakers are unsure if backup big man Dwight Howard will be joining them in Orlando for the NBA restart. But regardless of his decision, his Lakers teammates will respect him and have his back.
Lakers veteran Jared Dudley spoke on Howard’s situation during a conference call with reporters on Friday, revealing the consensus feeling in the locker room.
“We hope Dwight comes. We need Dwight,” Dudley said, per Harrison Faigen of Silver Screen & Roll. “But Dwight’s situation, I think we all can respect that. … Life is more important.”
Howard has had a resurgent season back in Los Angeles for a second stint, providing a spark at the center position off the bench with 7.5 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game. However, Howard — an eight-time All-Star — has been dealing with what Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka called “extenuating circumstance.” The mother of Howard’s six-year-old son, Melissa Rios, passed away recently at the age of 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 told reporters this week. “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.”
Lakers Retain Optimism About Dwight Howard
Lakers head coach Frank Vogel recently expressed optimism when speaking about Howard and the prospect of him joining the purple and gold squad in Orlando.
“We’ve been in communication with Dwight the whole way with the support of phone calls and text messages and we don’t know what the level of participation is going to be yet,” Vogel said. “He wants to play. We are hopeful that he’s able to join us. He has an extenuating circumstance that he’s working with the league on in terms of what that’s ultimately going to look like. We’re hopeful that optimistic that he’ll be able to join us in Orlando.
“We don’t have any intention of replacing Dwight’s roster spot when we believe he’ll hopefully be able to join us.”
Lakers Want to Limit Anthony Davis at Center
If Howard is out, it could force Lakers star Anthony Davis to play center for more minutes. However, Vogel is confident he won’t have to do that more than he wants. That’s good, considering Davis has been clear that he does not want to play center on a consistent basis.
“I’m hopeful not to do it any more than we were doing prior,” Vogel said. “I’ve always felt that Dwight and JaVale (McGee) could handle the load of both center responsibilities. We were using them as center by committee, and I think playing between 12-16 minutes, roughly, per game. I feel like both of those guys could handle playing more than that. Playing 20, 24, 28 minutes a game if needed. So if Dwight is not out there for any type of stretch, we could do that with JaVale.”
Vogel mentioned two-way players Devontae Cacok and Kostas Antetokounmpo could also eat up some minutes, along with Jared Dudley, or Markieff Morris or Kyle Kuzma in a smaller lineup look.