The Los Angeles Lakers have completed their immediate search for a big man, as they are set to sign Dwight Howard once he is bought out.
DeMarcus Cousins’ torn ACL put the Los Angeles Lakers in a tough spot to find a replacement. A report of mutual interest between them and Dwight Howard surfaced last weekend, and on Friday Shams Charania of The Athletic reported Howard is finalizing a contract buyout with the Memphis Grizzles and plans to sign with the Lakers.
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN added Howard’s deal with Los Angeles won’t be guaranteed, and the Lakers are proceeding with caution.
Howard spent last season with the Washington Wizards, but he only played in nine games before undergoing a L4-L5 lumbar microdiscectomy on Nov. 30 that ended his season. He exercised a $5.6 million option for the coming season, and Washington traded him to the Grizzlies. All along, Memphis buying Howard out has been inevitable.
At 33 years old now (34 in December), with back issues accelerating his decline, Howard’s prime where he earned eight All-Star selections and won Defensive Player of the Year three times is well behind him. But in 2017-18 with the Charlotte Hornets, he averaged 16.6 points, 12.5 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game over 81 games while posting above average marks in advanced metrics on both ends of the floor. So he’s not far removed from being a productive player, even if he is no threat beyond 10 feet offensively.
The primary question with Howard is his personality and fit in a locker room. His first, one-season stint with the Lakers did not go well, and since then reports of how he has rubbed teammates the wrong way have been consistent. But according to Wojnarowski, Howard hit rock bottom and has been “humbled.”
With Joakim Noah and Marreese Speights emerging as the other top options to replace Cousins, it was easy for the Lakers to settle on Howard. They are taking literally no risk if it somehow doesn’t work out, due to an injury or broader fit, and Howard should easily embrace a background role where he’s not the lightning rod for criticism.