The Los Angeles Lakers used their last roster spot to sign Dwight Howard because, in theory, he was the best available center on the market. He’s an eight-time All-Star, a three-time Defensive Player of the Year and has averaged a double-double every year of his career except last season, when he played just nine games.
However, the team clearly still had their reservations about him, as they made his contract non-guaranteed. A large part of their decision to proceed with caution stems from the fact that Howard hasn’t always shown a commitment to his skills. When he was an All-NBA center, that wasn’t a glaring issue, but it is now that he’s had two back surgeries and has played for four teams in four years.
Luckily, Howard seems to be slowly gaining the trust of his coaching staff and teammates. After practice on Tuesday, Anthony Davis hailed Howard’s commitment to getting things done since training camp started.
“Dwight has it on his mind that he wants to help this team win, and whatever that needs, he’s gonna do it. He wants to have his second run in L.A. be a great one,” Davis said.
“He goes in the weight room, he gets his treatment and he comes on the court to get his work in and practice. He’s been about business from day one, and that’s all you want, is for a guy to come in, get his work in and be ready to go.”
Lakers Head Coach Frank Vogel also praised Howard for buying into the team’s no-nonsense mentality. Vogel has previously said he thinks Howard can be one of the best backup centers in the NBA.
“Dwight Howard has been all business since he came in this time around. We’re asking our whole group to have a seriousness about ourselves, and he’s been an all-business type of guy,” Vogel said. “It’s really helped us be focused.”
It remains to be seen how much Howard has left in the tank physically, but it sounds like he’s in a better place mentally. The big question is whether or not he’ll be able to maintain that attitude on nights where he doesn’t play a ton or — in some case — at all.
If the answer to that question is a resounding “yes,” then there’s no reason to believe he can’t help the Lakers win games this season. If it’s not, the front office has made it easy to part ways with him.