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Lakers coach Vogel on Dwight Howard: ‘We feel really good about where he’s at as a person’

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Dwight Howard is going to play an important role for the Lakers this season.

But it’s a role. Defend, grab rebounds, on offense set some picks and roll hard to the rim then catch any lobs thrown your way. That’s it. In his last few stops, Howard pushed back against this kind of smaller role, wanting more touches — and more touches in the post, where he is not efficient — and with that (and some leadership questions) becoming somewhat of a distraction. There’s a reason he’s bounced around the league despite putting up decent numbers for a few years in places such as Houston and Charlotte.

The Lakers have bet things are different, although with the non-guaranteed contract they gave him the Lakers have hedged that bet. They are betting he’s healthy — he only played nine games for the Wizards last season and had another back surgery — and they are betting he’ll accept his role. They are betting LeBron James and Anthony Davis can keep him in line. Howard is saying all the right things, but there are plenty of skeptics around the league because Howard has said all the right things before.

Laker coach Frank Vogel, in an interview on the Lakers’ local cable channel Spectrum Sports Net, talked about Howard and the Lakers’ hopes (hat tip NBA Rumors).

Here are the money lines:

“I’m definitely confident he can the play we’ve laid out for him. He’s coming to the Lakers at a very different time in his career. [The] first time he was here, he was on top of the NBA mountain and was a bonafide superstar. Things have changed, he’s later in his career now, he’s a different person, has a different mindset…

“We feel really good about where he’s at as a person. He’sgonna serve a different role. It’s gonna be more of a role player type of role as opposed to being the lead and he understands that.”

We’ll see if he understands that. The rest of the NBA is going Missouri on this: Show me. The Lakers have taken that stance as well with their “summer” contract that pays him every day he’s on the roster but allows them to cut him at any point.

If Howard is healthy and accepts his role, he and JaVale McGee can form a solid front line that can play 30ish minutes a night — until the Lakers unleash Davis at the five, which will be their best lineup. It can work. But as with a lot of the Lakers’ role players this season, there are a lot of questions to be answered still. And in the West, not a lot of margin for error.

Dwight Howard clears waivers, signs with Lakers, will wear No. 39

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Dwight Howard has cleared waivers and is officially a member of the Los Angeles Lakers. At least for now.

Shams Charania of The Athletic updated that he cleared waivers this morning and had pictures of Howard in his new jersey. The Lakers officially confirmed the signing later in the day.

Los Angeles waived Exhibit 10 contract player Aric Holman to make room on the roster for Howard, the team confirmed this report as well.

While Laker fans should not be described as optimistic about the return of Howard, most also are realistic about their options and the fact Howard is on a non-guaranteed contract the Lakers can walk away from at any time. That deal is something Bobby Marks of ESPN explains in more detail.

Howard was traded from the Wizards to the Grizzlies, who bought him out and waived him. Howard gave back $2.6 million in his buyout with the Grizzlies, which is exactly how much his veteran minimum contract with the Lakers will pay him — if he makes it through the season.

Howard and JaVale McGee will team up to play the minutes at the five Anthony Davis does not (AD is their best center, and it’s not close, but he wants to play the four most of the game). Howard could be fantastic in that role if he sticks just to rebounding, defense, setting picks and rolling hard to the rim. For three seasons, from 2015-16 to 2017-18, Howard averaged 13+ points and 12 rebounds a night, was a big body on defense, and played at least 71 games in averaging 30 minutes a night. However, in those years Howard pushed back against a defense/set-a-pick-and-roll/rebound role, he was a distraction. Last season he could not stay healthy. 

Howard is saying all the right things about accepting that role now, and he convinced Jason Kidd — the Lakers’ assistant coach who championed him — and the franchise that he is serious this time. However, that “summer contract” the Lakers gave him sums up the caution they feel entering this second go-around with Howard.

Laker training camp is going to be interesting.

Grizzlies officially waive Dwight Howard; first step on his path to Lakers

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Lakers fans are uncomfortable with it, but the Lakers did a good job hedging their bet with a non-guaranteed contract: Dwight Howard is coming to the Lakers.

That process started on Saturday with the Grizzlies officially waiving Howard.

In theory, any team could claim Howard off waivers. In practice, no team is picking up his full $5.6 million salary.

Howard gave back $2.6 million in his buyout with the Grizzlies, which is exactly how much his veteran minimum contract with the Lakers will pay him.

Howard and JaVale McGee will have to tag team to play all the minutes at the five the Lakers need. Anthony Davis is their best center (and it’s not close, he’s arguably the best center in the NBA) but he wants to play the four most of the game, so for 30 minutes a night the Lakers need another big body at the five.

Howard has the potential to fill that role. For three seasons, from 2015-16 to 2017-18, Howard averaged 13+ points and 12 rebounds a night, was a big body on defense, and played at least 71 games in averaging 30 minutes a night. Exactly the kind of player the Lakers could use. The problem was Howard was never happy those years just playing that defense/set-a-pick-and-roll/rebound role. He wanted more touches and particularly in the post, which led to disruptions as he pushed for a larger role. It’s why he bounced around. Then last season he played just nine games due to more back and hamstring issues.

Howard is saying all the right things about accepting that role, and he convinced the Lakers to a degree, but that non-guaranteed contract shows the Lakers go into this eyes wide open. If Howard is up to his old antics, the Lakers can cut bait and move on.

It’s among the many things to watch in what should be an entertaining Lakers’ training camp this year.

How Dwight Howard convinced the Lakers to take a chance on him

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Laker fans Friday sounded like your friends after an ugly relationship and breakup, when you suddenly consider taking that person back. Laker nation took to Twitter screaming “ARE YOU SERIOUS? What are you thinking? Are you even thinking?”

The Lakers, however, are entering a second relationship with Dwight Howard with their eyes wide open — he will sign a non-guaranteed contract to be the team’s center (sharing duties with Anthony Davis and JaVale McGee). Howard will have to prove himself, on and off the court. The Lakers have leverage and can waive Howard and move on to Joakim Noah or someone else quickly if things do not pan out.

But how did it even get to this point? How did Howard — who did his annual summer media tour saying “I have changed, I am taking the game and my conditioning seriously, I just want a chance” and league observers shrugged because they have heard the same thing for years — convince the Lakers to roll the dice on him again? Shams Charania of The Athletic laid it all out.

Howard’s message to [Laker assistant coach Jason] Kidd and the Lakers was the same one he delivered to The Athletic in July from NBA summer league: He’s learned from the past several seasons, learned that, at age 33, he is simply one of the guys now. Howard believes he can contribute at a high level for any NBA team, but the eight-time All-Star also understands he has to focus on rebounding, defense, blocking shots, finishing around the rim and simply playing whenever he is asked… Kidd became convinced about Howard’s newfound awakening…

The Lakers then began setting workouts for free agents, and Howard traveled from Atlanta to Los Angeles on Wednesday. His meeting and workout with the Lakers was set for Thursday, but Howard went to the Lakers’ facility in El Segundo, Calif., on Wednesday afternoon for his own training session. The Lakers were surprised to see him, sources said, and many key decision makers were in attendance…

League sources said Howard had a convincing and emotional meeting with the players and Lakers officials, explaining how he had reached rock bottom a season ago and needed to find a new mindset in his life. On and off the floor. He was not the teammate he needed to be in playing for three teams in the past three years. He did not take the game seriously enough, he did not understand what was needed to turn the corner.

Howard has said all that before. Multiple times. To multiple teams and teammates. Maybe this time he has genuinely figured things out, but whatever he did and said was enough to convince the Lakers to buy in…

To a point.

One could argue — and I would make the case — that Noah would be a better fit on the court for the Lakers’ needs in terms of passing and defense, but he comes with plenty of risks as well (health, getting along with LeBron James, and how much he liked the nightlife as a Knick in New York and what that would mean in L.A.). At least with Howard, the Lakers mitigated that risk with the non-guaranteed contract. If Howard will not accept his role and is disruptive (as he has been in recent stops), if he is still eating candy like a bingeing 10-year-old on Halloween night, if he can’t stay healthy, the Lakers can waive Howard and move on. If the Lakers brought in Noah, they would have been smart to have the same non-guaranteed contract (if Noah would have signed that kind of deal).

For now the Lakers have their man, but he’s basically on probation. Howard has to prove in deeds everything he has said in words.

Report: Dwight Howard agrees to buyout with Grizzlies, will join Lakers on non-guaranteed deal

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Once again, the Lakers are betting that Dwight Howard and his back are healthy. However, this time the Lakers have hedged that bet.

After a workout this week in front of Lakers’ coaches and front office staff, Howard’s agent has worked out a buyout with the Memphis Grizzlies, and Howard will sign with Los Angeles, filling the role that had belonged to DeMarcus Cousins before he tore his ACL this summer. Shams Charania of The Athletic broke the news, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN added vital details.

There’s a segment of Lakers’ fans — a large, vocal segment — that is going to hate this move because of the history. The Lakers get that, but the coaches and staff also know this: If he’s healthy, and if he’s willing to accept a role on the court, if he’s willing to adapt how he is in the locker room and with the staff and front office (there are reasons Howard has bounced from team to team to team in recent years), Howard is the best fit for the Lakers on the court.

Last time Howard was a Laker back issues limited him on the court, and his not taking the game or his conditioning very seriously (Howard has a legendary candy-eating habit) rubbed Kobe Bryant the wrong way. To put it mildly. LeBron James is going to bring that same work ethic and attitude, but now the Lakers have some leverage on Howard with the non-guaranteed contract.

The Lakers had planned to lean heavily on Cousins this season. The Lakers have arguably the best center in the game today in Anthony Davis, but he does he want to play 30+ minutes a night banging away down in the post (nor is he physically built for that). Cousins was going to be the center much of the game, with Davis sliding over to the five for key stretches. But Cousins is almost certainly lost for the season with a torn ACL.

Howard was the best potential fit to replace Cousins on the court, or at least do so in combination with JaVale McGee (it’s going to take both of them to soak up all the minutes at the five the Lakers need). For three seasons, from 2015-16 to 2017-18, Howard averaged 13+ points and 12 rebounds a night, was a big body on defense, and played at least 71 games in averaging 30 minutes a night. Exactly the kind of player the Lakers could use. The problem was Howard was never happy just playing that role and doing those things, which led to disruptions as he pushed for a larger role.

There are two key concerns bringing in Howard. Health is one, Howard played just nine games for the Wizards last season following another back surgery and some hamstring issues. The other is Will Howard accept the role he is given, play hard, and not be a distraction?

If Howard doesn’t fit, the Lakers also worked out Joakim Noah — who impressed a lot of people around the league with his solid 41 games for Memphis the second half of last season — and Mo Speights. They will have other options.

But for now, the Lakers are betting on Howard.