Dwight Howard went on a redemption mission in 2019-20, signing with the Los Angeles Lakers six years after leaving L.A. in awkward circumstances.
Howard first joined the Lakers in the summer of 2012, arriving via trade to team up with Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol — and two-time MVP Steve Nash, who had moved to L.A. a month earlier. But despite high hopes for the star-studded Purple and Gold, the team never reached the expected level of performance due to injuries and a lack of chemistry.
The big man fell out with Bryant and eventually left for the Houston Rockets during the 2013 free agency, but the three-time Defensive Player of the Year would never get back to his dominant self. The former No. 1 pick eventually reunited with the Lakers in 2019 to help them win the franchise’s 17th NBA championship amid the raging coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Howard redeemed himself that season, but the center says his comeback started off on a bitter note. In an appearance on Showtime’s “All the Smoke” podcast, the eight-time All-Star said he didn’t receive a warm welcome from Lakers legend and current basketball adviser Kurt Rambis:
Dwight Howard: “I really told nobody this story, I remember, except my close people. Going back to the Lakers and trying to get a job the second time with them, and meeting with the GM — it’s probably about four or five players, Rondo, AD, couple more players. And Kurt says this to me, ‘You’re not Dwight Howard no more.’”
Matt Barnes: “Who said that?”
Dwight Howard: “Kurt. Kurt Rambis. He says ‘You’re not Dwight Howard no more and don’t expect to be Dwight Howard when you come to the team.’ And I’m like, damn, how are you not going to want me to be myself? And it really just hit me like, I just got to shut my mouth and do what I’m asked to do. And just not allow anything to affect me winning this championship. And that was real hard.”
Howard would leave the Lakers again after the season and come back for the third time ahead of the 2021-22 campaign. But in those three separate stints with the Purple and Gold, he proved to be a true professional, accepting each role former head coach Frank Vogel offered him.
The center’s story adds to the rumors that Rambis — a part of L.A.’s “four-pronged brain trust,” as Lakers governor Jeanie Buss put it — enjoyed an unhealthy amount of power within the franchise.
New head coach Darvin Ham was reportedly promised that Rambis “wouldn’t be a regular presence in coaching meetings” like he was during Vogel’s last season with the team.
WWE’s Triple H says ball in Howard’s court to join wrestling promotion
Howard remained without a team at the start of the 2022 preseason. And earlier this year, the center discussed his hopes of joining WWE in the future — although adding he wasn’t ready to give up on basketball just yet.
Recently, WWE’s head of creative Paul Levesque, a.k.a Triple H, said the door is open for Howard to try himself as a professional wrestler. But, Levesque added, it’s on the former Lakers center to commit to the craft.
“When he says,’ Hey I want to give this a shot,’ he’s got my phone number. All he’s gotta do is call me, and we’ll see what can happen,” Triple H said.
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