Could Dwight Howard return to the city of Los Angeles?
During an interview with Arash Markazi of The Los Angeles Times, the former All-Star Center and three-time Defensive Player of the Year stated that he is open to the idea of playing for the Los Angeles Clippers or Los Angeles Lakers — the team he played for during the 2012-13 season.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I do love L.A.,” Howard said. “Staples Center is going to be rocking this season. When I played there it was rocking every night. The atmosphere is crazy, not just for the Lakers but the Clippers too. I just think all the hard work they’ve put in is paying off now. They’ve always been viewed as the Lakers’ little brother, but they decided to stand out and be different and you have to thank guys like Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and Chris Paul for laying the foundation for this team, and then what Doc [Rivers] has done has been great. This is just all that hard work paying off.”
Howard is currently under contract with the Memphis Grizzlies after being traded by the Wizards just a week prior. However, the Grizzlies are attempting to trade away the 33-year-old big man. If they can’t find any takers, Howard will be waived and become a free agent and have the opportunity to sign wherever he pleases.
Of all of the active players in the NBA, there is little argument that Howard is one of the most accomplished. An eight-time All-Star, an eight-time All-NBA selection and a three-time Defensive Player of the Year, Howard was the top center in the NBA at the start of the decade.
However, his lone season in Los Angeles led to the rapid decline of his career on the court and off of it. Not only has Howard struggled to remain relevant in today’s pace-and-space shooting era of the NBA, his feud with Kobe Bryant and Howard garnering a reputation of not being the best teammate has led to the future Hall-of-Fame center bouncing around from team to team. Assuming Howard plays during the 2019-20 season, his next destination would mark his seventh NBA team — and sixth in the past eight seasons.
Howard was limited to just nine games this past season because of a back injury, but he was productive when he was healthy during the 2017-18 season with the Charlotte Hornets. The veteran center averaged 16.6 points and 12.5 rebounds per game on 55.5 percent from the field while starting and appearing in 81 games.
As Howard enters his 16th NBA season, he spoke of that disastrous lone season in Los Angeles.
“It just wasn’t the right fit for me at the time,” Howard. “But the Lakers have been doing something right for a long time because they have the most fans in the world and the most championships over the past 40 years. You’re not going to win a championship every year, but they’re back and will compete for a championship next season. There’s some really good teams out there and everybody wants to see how everything is going to shake out. But it’s great to see teams that were struggling are back competing for a title again.”
While it’s clear that Howard would love to join a championship contender at this stage of his career — he has never won an NBA title — it’s unclear if the Lakers or Clippers would have mutual interest. The Lakers have 16 players under contract and have Anthony Davis, Javale McGee and DeMarcus Cousins at center. They would likely only be able to offer Howard the veteran’s minimum if he were to be signed.
In the case of the Clippers, they have 14 players under contract and have more of a need for a veteran center than the Lakers do. They have two actual centers under contract — Ivica Zubac and rookie Mfiondu Kabengele and two more big men slotted as power forwards in Montrezl Harrell and JaMychal Green. In other words, Howard could reasonably fit into the Clippers’ plans, especially as a defensive veteran presence.
We’ll see where Howard ends up before the 2019-20 season, but one thing is for certain — he is definitely open to returning to Los Angeles.