To anyone who watched your Los Angeles Lakers last season, it was pretty obvious which aging former All-NBA center between DeAndre Jordan and Dwight Howard still had something in the tank. And yet the guy who was so ineffective in February from a reeling LA team is the one who signed a new veteran’s minimum contract with a contender this summer. Jordan will join reigning two-time MVP center Nikola Jokic with the Denver Nuggets. Meanwhile, former eight-time All-Star and three-time Defensive Player of the Year Dwight Howard remains a free agent as of this writing.
That’s not to say Howard won’t end up on a league list at some point this year. But the preseason has already started. DeMarcus Cousins had to wait until late November last season to sign a one-year, no-guarantee contract with the Milwaukee Bucks. He was eventually fired but quickly joined the Nuggets as Jokic’s primary backup going into the home stretch of the 2021-22 NBA season. This seems most likely to be the path the artist formerly known as D12 (he wore jersey No. 37 with the Lakers last season) will need to take.
As the 6’10” tall Hall of Famer-to-be, 36, continues to await an NBA opportunity, he’s been doing a small media round, perhaps to raise awareness. He’s appearing in a brand new episode of Showtimes High-In the Entertaining NBA show All The Smoke, hosted by former “We Believe” Golden State Warriors teammates Stephen Jackson and Matt Barnes, shed light on Howard’s experience with the Lakers during their ill-fated 2021-22 season.
Howard, of course, has completed three separate tours of duty in Los Angeles at different points in his career, with very different results.
First, he was the blockbuster returnee for a chemical-free 2012-13 season that saw LA shuffle through three head coaches, and Howard, then still close to his Orlando prime (though somewhat curtailed by previous troubles), seemingly clashed with Lakers All-Star Shooting Guard Kobe Bryant. They were joined by two other Hall of Famers on the team’s starting lineup, point guard Steve Nash and power forward/center Pau Gasol (Metta Sandiford-Artest was the only non-Hall of Famer on that starting lineup), but not all – Howard Player was getting on in years. LA barely made the playoffs with a 45-37 average record and was promptly swept by Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, a pre-All-Star Kawhi Leonard and the rest of the San Antonio Spurs. Howard went free-lance to join the Houston Rockets despite (or maybe because?) LA embarked on a somewhat desperate billboard campaign, more or less begging him to stay in town.
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Howard is no longer an all-star but is still a solid rim runner. He came to LA in the team’s first year on a non-guaranteed “prove it” contract, with both LeBron James and Anthony Davis leading the pack, 2019-20. Howard actually proved it and was an invaluable role player at a club that would go on to win the title.
After a disappointing offseason negotiation, Howard joined the Philadelphia 76ers to serve behind All-NBA starting center Joel Embiid. He promptly returned to the Lakers for 2021-22. Howard had become a more limited iteration of his 2019-20 self but could still wreak havoc in the paint in spot minutes.
In a conversation sometime that year with Jeanie Bus’s “adviser” Kurt Rambis, himself a former reserve big man, Howard apparently received a blunt reality check of his NBA status. Last year in LA, Howard averaged 6.2 points (at 61.2% field goal shooting), 5.9 rebounds, 0.6 assists, 0.6 blocks and 0.6 in just 16.2 minutes a night steals For his career, he’s averaging 15.7 points (while shooting 58.7% from the floor), 11.8 rebounds, 1.8 blocks, 1.3 assists and 0.9 steals over 31.8 minutes a night.
“Kurt Rambis said to me, ‘You’re not Dwight Howard anymore,'” Howard told Jackson and Barnes. “It really hit me like, ‘Damn… I just have to shut up and do what I’m asked to do… That was really tough.”
Watch the full episode below:
Los Angeles decided to pull away from Howard in free agency this summer and got younger at the position with two athletic players under 28, Damian Jones and Thomas Bryant.