Dwight Howard’s return to the Los Angeles Lakers last summer was a serendipitous one, only possible at the expense of DeMarcus Cousins who had torn his ACL. But the move has turned out to be beneficial for both sides.
Howard got a chance to redeem himself after a disappointing 2012-13 season with the Lakers. And he did, providing L.A. with a strong option off the bench at the center position. “Well, it is a breath of fresh air to be back with the Lakers,” Howard said of his return.
Howard understands his tumultuous departure from L.A. after just one season — prompted in large part due to his conflict with Kobe Bryant — was interpreted in many different ways. But the center now looks back on that unfortunate stint as a thing of the past and he truly cherished his time in L.A.
“I’m looking forward to just going out there, putting this jersey on, and just seeing Lakers every day,” Howard said. “Just means so much to me.”
Howard admitted the return required some soul-searching from him. Before rejoining the Lakers last summer, he had always been considered the star of his team. Of the 1,044 regular season games he had played in his career, he was not included in the starting lineup just once — while with the Orlando Magic during the 2005-06 season.
In L.A., Howard came off the bench in all but two of his 69 regular season appearances during the current campaign. “For me, it was just like letting go of ego, pride, and just understanding that you can’t have that in order to live a really successful life,” Howard explained.
“Just understanding that coming back to this team, I was going to give whatever I had to give up just to be the best player I can be for this team.”
Howard averaged 18.9 minutes per game during the regular season, putting up 7.5 points and 7.3 rebounds — leading starting center JaVale McGee in both statistical areas.
And in the playoffs, having fallen out of the rotation in the Houston Rockets series, Howard made a big impact in the Western Conference Finals against the Denver Nuggets, starting the last two games of the series.
Howard says this year’s journey with the Lakers made him “a better man (and) a better teammate.” And despite the challenges they had to face to get there, he feels grateful for the opportunity to play in the NBA Finals and share it with “some of the greatest players in the world” — as well as his son.
“It’s been the hardest road to get back here and I’m very grateful,” Howard said. “One thing is I’ve never just given up on myself. I’ve always continued to work as hard as I can knowing that one day things will change.”
Caruso feels playoff ‘intensity’ in the bubble
Undeniably, the 2020 NBA Playoffs are extraordinary considering the players have been competing for the championship in the isolated Orlando bubble environment.
And while Alex Caruso regrets not being able to share the experience with Lakers fans, the guard says he can still sense the urgency and energy of the game.
“I was really looking forward to playing in the atmosphere of Staples Center and all these other arenas with the fans and having the intensity of the playoffs be exactly what I’ve seen on TV growing up,” he said. “But you can still feel it.”
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