In his one season with the Lakers, center Dwight Howard has rehabilitated his image. He willingly accepted a role off the bench for the newly minted champs and did not complain when he went from DNPs in the conference semis to starter in the West finals and NBA Finals to buried on the bench again.
But even as Howard has successfully brought back a reputation that was so battered, he was unable to land a job for most of last offseason, there has been chatter around the league that the Lakers would likely let him walk in free agency this offseason. That’s no guarantee, but the Lakers figure to have plenty of options at center.
Howard has indicated he wants to remain with the Lakers, but he could potentially get a boost in free agency if another rumor pans out—that the Golden State Warriors want Howard if they can get him at the right price.
NBC Sports Bay Area’s Monte Poole floated the idea of the Warriors’ interest in Howard last week, citing Golden State coach Steve Kerr’s desire to come back with a bigger and stronger roster when next season starts. Shams Charania of The Athletic confirmed that interest today.
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Golden State Warriors Could be Lakers’ Top Rival Next Year
While the Lakers will be the defending champs, the Warriors could be their biggest obstacle to winning back-to-back titles. Golden State will have Klay Thompson and Steph Curry (both were injured last year) healthy and back on the floor, with Draymond Green.
The Warriors also hold the No. 3 pick in this year’s draft as well as swingman Andrew Wiggins. There has been talk that Golden State will use those chips as trade bait in making a deal for another star player, but even if the Warriors just stand pat, they’ll be a formidable bunch.
The Lakers are favored to win next year’s NBA championship according to odds at William Hill sportsbook in Las Vegas, with the Clippers No. 2. The Bucks are third on the odds chart and No. 4 is the Warriors. If the Lakers are lukewarm on bringing Howard back, the Warriors could lure him with a promise of a prominent role and a chance to get back to the Finals.
Dwight Howard Tends to Wear Out Welcomes
It would not be the first time Golden State has had an interest in Howard. When he was a free agent in 2013 after being traded to the Lakers the previous summer, the Warriors nearly worked out a deal to get Howard to Golden State. Instead, they wound up with Andre Iguodala, a key component to their run of three championships in five years.
It would also be no surprise if Howard is not welcome back in Los Angeles.
“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.”
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.
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