Going into the NBA’s restart at Walt Disney World, the Los Angeles Lakers knew they would be without Avery Bradley, as he opted out to stay with his family. However, up until Monday night, Dwight Howard still had not made his choice.
Players like Danny Green and Kyle Kuzma had remained in contact with Howard, but it wasn’t until the beginning of the week that it was confirmed that he would join. Howard announced his decision well after a soft deadline of June 24 and the more firm one — July 1.
Howard has been one of the Lakers most important role players this season. After years of struggling to succeed in various situations, he found a niche with L.A. as a rim protector and rebounder, becoming a fan favorite after his failed first stint in 2013.
Green, who had been very vocal about the team needing Howard from the beginning, said how excited he was to hear the news. “I think everybody knows what kind of presence he’s been for us. He’s obviously a key piece. Everyone is a key piece on our team,” Green said.
“Took a blow, took a hit, when Avery opted out, but we have a lot of good pieces and experience. Dwight has been a good spark for us off the bench, a rim protector and changed a lot of games for us.
“I have been in communication with him. I checked on him even before he was deciding whether or not to play, because he was going through a lot when the pandemic first started. As of late I think we all have spoken to him and checked in on him. Happy for the news. It wasn’t a surprise to me since I had been talking to him. I’m glad he’s with us, I’m glad he’s on board. I’m excited to have our guys in the bubble.”
Kuzma shared the same sentiments as Green when asked for his initial reaction to the news. “Dwight has been a great teammate all year and always been there for people on and off the floor,” Kuzma said. “Playing with no ego, just having one common goal. We’re happy to have him come back and be able to join our team in Orlando in the bubble. I think it’s great for us.”
Having teammates react this way must feel great for Howard, and it shows the strides he’s made as a player this season. The Lakers took a chance on him with a non-guaranteed contract at the beginning of the season, and it has paid off in a big way.
Now, Howard will be one of the team’s most vital pieces as they fight for a championship. Fans and players will be rooting heavily for him to step up big in a playoff game to help the Lakers get their first ring in a decade.
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