It was little surprise that Lakers center Dwight Howard did not play much in the NBA’s conference semifinals against the Rockets, a series L.A. won in five games. Houston plays an extreme version of small-ball, going without a center and barely with any players who would qualify, size-wise, as power forwards.
There was never going to be a consistent place in the Lakers rotation for Howard, at 6-10 and a pure center his entire career, against Houston. He played 11 minutes in the first game and four minutes in the final game but saw no cation in Games 2-4.
We might not see too much of Howard in the remainder of the playoffs for the Lakers, especially if the Clippers prevail in their Game 7 against Denver on Tuesday night. Howard played only 12.6 minutes per game against the Clippers in the regular season, his lowest chunk of playing time against any team in the league.
But beyond that, there is speculation around the NBA that we might not see much of Howard with the Lakers beyond this year, either.
“Teams tend to have a short window where they get their fill of Dwight Howard, that has been the pattern,” one Eastern Conference general manager told Heavy.com. “He can be a lot to handle. He can be loud, he can be demanding. He is not as disruptive now that he is older but his personality can chafe the people around him and after a year, they’re ready to let him go. The Lakers are at that point with him, they will have other options in the offseason for a backup center. He did a nice job for them but I would think they’re ready to move on.”
Dwight Howard Has Been a Spark off Lakers Bench
Indeed, Howard has done a good job for the Lakers this season, providing an energetic spark off the bench with 7.5 points and 7.3 rebounds in just 18.9 minutes per game. He has never mistaken himself for a perimeter shooter and took only five 3-point attempts, making three. He shot 72.9% from the field this season.
But, as the GM pointed out, Howard does not have a long shelf life with any team for which he has played in recent years. He signed a bloated, three-year, $70 million contract with the Hawks in 2016 after he had worn out his welcome in Houston.
Atlanta traded him to Charlotte after just one season and ESPN’s Zach Lowe noted on his podcast that, when that trade went through, stories spread about, “Hawks players learning about the trade and screaming with jubilation into their phones.”
The Hornets traded Howard to Brooklyn for, essentially, cash and a second-round pick. The Nets promptly waived him, and he signed with the Wizards. He could not stay healthy, though, playing only nine games for Washington.
He might have gone without a job at all this season if not for the knee injury suffered by DeMarcus Cousins last August, just ahead of the 2019-20 season. With Cousins out, the Lakers signed Howard in desperation.
Has Dwight Howard Worn out His Welcome With Lakers?
Howard mostly has been a good soldier in L.A. and, playing alongside LeBron James and on a roster pointed toward a championship, it has behooved him not to test the patience of the organization. Still, Howard will be 35 in December and his tendency to grate on teammates remains an issue.
Some of that was evident when Howard was waffling on whether to join the Lakers in Orlando for the NBA’s return after the four-month coronavirus hiatus. Teams and players had no issue with those who were clear about opting out of the return—like Lakers guard Avery Bradley—but Howard was unclear on his status without giving much of a reason.
There was also the Instagram Live video which featured Howard suggesting there was no need to wear a mask inside the NBA’s bubble environment and had him joking that he would sell his masks on eBay. That came after Howard claimed that someone had snitched on him for going maskless in the bubble.
So maybe the Lakers will have had enough of the Howard show by the time free agency rolls around. The Lakers will have other options, starting with giving Cousins another shot at the center spot. There will be other veterans on the market, too, including Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka, and possibly Enes Kanter or Robin Lopez, who both had player options on their contracts.