A Humble And Motivated Dwight Howard Is Thriving As A Role-Player With The Los Angeles Lakers

Updated: December 25, 2019
Dwight Howard Pic

When Dwight Howard returned to Orlando to play his former team in early December, he took the time to open up on his feelings toward the franchise that drafted him; the franchise that he led to an NBA Finals appearance and helped rejuvenate interest in a team that was able to move into a new arena during his time with the Magic.

It all started great. Howard was the No. 1 pick of the 2004 NBA Draft. He became a three-time Defensive Player of the Year in Orlando, and he was surrounded with shooters like Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu, along with point guard Jameer Nelson, in a pick-and-roll, inside-out offense that made it all the way to the NBA Finals in 2009, where a few breaks went against Orlando and the Lakers won the series in five games. The Magic changed up the formula by acquiring new pieces like Vince Carter and Jason Richardson, but they couldn’t equal the success of the 2008-09 team.

If you recall, Howard and the Magic had a very public break-up. Howard asked to be traded during the 2011-12 season, but he later rescinded his trade request.

In April 2012, a bizarre press conference with then-head coach Stan Van Gundy took place after the team’s morning shootaround before a game that night. Van Gundy confirmed a media report that Howard wanted him fired as a condition for him to remain in Orlando. Howard then joined the press conference, not knowing what his coach had said, and he denied the reports shortly after his coach confirmed them.

In a 2018 interview, Howard called that day the worst in his career.

Van Gundy and general manager Otis Smith were fired at the end of that season, and Howard was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers. We all know that Howard’s first stint in LA was not successful. A combination of age, injuries, and what some called an aloof mentality led to largely subpar stops in Houston, Atlanta, Charlotte, and Washington. After spending most of the summer unsigned, he signed on to return to LA in a backup role, where he’s thriving. In around 20 minutes per game, he’s averaging 7 points and 7 rebounds, which is a solid contribution from a backup center.

While playing the Magic last week, Howard opened up to ESPN about his feelings toward the organization.

“I was super bitter at a lot of the things that transpired behind closed doors that none of the Magic fans or people really know about,” Howard told ESPN. “…I did have a lot of bitterness in my heart toward the organization and even the fans of how they treated me when I came back. But I let it go…and it just made me a better person.”

On the surface, Howard was never the same after leaving Orlando. He never averaged 20 points per game in his post-Magic career, and his rebound and block production also decreased.

Now, that his role is clearly defined, he seems to have the best chance in a decade for that elusive NBA championship.

“I’m really enjoying my time with him,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “He’s really bought into and bringing a seriousness about his business and his approach.”

“There are times where I thought what would have happened if I would have stayed [in Orlando] and stuff like that,” Howard said, “but I’m at the right place at the right time, and that’s really the only thing that matters.”

Signings like Howard’s are usually the difference when it comes to title contenders – having the extra depth come May and June is key. We’ll find out then whether this was one of the key signings of the offseason.

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2 years ago

Awesome post! Keep up the great work! 🙂

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