DeMarcus Cousins‘ unfortunate injury prior to the 2019-20 NBA season forced the Los Angeles Lakers to quickly search for a replacement at the center position.
A number of names were mentioned as possibilities, but the most interesting was undoubtedly Dwight Howard.
The history between Howard and the Lakers is well known. After one injury-plagued season in Los Angeles, Howard decided to leave in 2013 NBA free agency, joining the Houston Rockets and becoming the most hated player in the league to the fan base. Those feelings did not dissipate at all through the years and the idea of Howard returning to the Lakers was not one many fans wanted to see come to fruition.
Howard, on the other hand, had no issues making the return. In an interview with Bill Oram of The Athletic, Howard admitted to hating Los Angeles at one point, but ultimately let that hatred go and had no hesitation about coming back to the Lakers:
“Without any hesitation or anything like that, I was like, ‘Hell yeah, I’d come back and play for the Lakers,’” Howard told The Athletic following a Lakers off day in early January, shortly after his contract was guaranteed for the rest of the season. “Why wouldn’t I? For me, it was kind of like in my heart I was full of forgiveness towards the fans and how the situation ended. I think after that first stint I was super angry. I hated L.A., I hated all that stuff, but I had to let all that go. And it just made my life better.”
The move has been extremely beneficial for both sides. Howard has become one of the most important parts of a Lakers team with intentions on bringing home an NBA championship and the fans have embraced him universally. Not only has Howard bought into his role on the team, but he has thrived in it, leading to his contract becoming guaranteed for the rest of the season.
Before Howard ever signed with the Lakers, he was adamant that he was a changed man and was willing to accept any role on a team. He has proven to be a man of his word and now the Lakers are a much better team because of it.
Howard’s first run in Los Angeles is something that won’t be forgotten but if he continues on this path and helps the Lakers win the 2020 NBA Finals, all will definitely be forgiven.