When given a chance at a huge chunk of minutes by head coach Frank Vogel, Howard responded with one of his best performances in recent memory.
Howard played 23 minutes in the blowout win over the Hornets and in that time, he scored 16 points on a perfect 8-of-8 from the field. In addition, he grabbed 10 rebounds and got four blocks en route to a +/- of +23 — a game-high figure.
Vogel praised Howard’s play, saying that he showed bursts of that in 2019 NBA training camp and that his performance in the Hornets game was simply off the charts.
“Dwight’s shown bursts like that all throughout camp and I said all along, he and JaVale are playing at a really high level and a big part of what we’re trying to accomplish,” Vogel said of Howard. “Tonight, in particular, he was off the charts. Obviously 8-for-8, scoring the way we want him to score by crashing and rolling to the basket.”
Vogel also praised Howard’s defense beyond just the four blocks. He also commended Howard for changing the direction of several other shots as well.
“Defensively is where I felt he was dominant,” Vogel said of Howard. “He had four blocks but he changed several other shots, got every rebound it seemed in his area, and he was 16-10 with four blocks. He had a hell of a night.”
This is the type of player that teams have been trying to get Howard to be since he left the Lakers after the 2012-13 NBA season: a player that stars within his role.
If Howard can maintain even some of the level of play he achieved against the Hornets, then signing him to that non-guaranteed deal will have been worth it — if it wasn’t already.
Through three games, Howard has made a serious case to be the starting center for the Lakers as his on-court chemistry with Anthony Davis seems to be better than JaVale McGee‘s. In addition, McGee likely will only be able to handle smaller spurts than Howard anyways, making him a perfect candidate to come off the bench.
Either way, it seems that the Lakers have found a formula they really like for now and with their first 2-1 start since the 2011-12 season, that formula may be working.