Dwight Howard’s cameo greatly helped the Los Angeles Lakers turn things around in the 117-92 victory over the Sacramento Kings.
Howard came off the bench shortly after the tip-off and remained on the floor for 35 minutes. The big man scored 12 points while adding 13 rebounds and two blocks — and ended the night +27, the second-highest plus-minus ratio in the game.
His contribution helped the Lakers dominate the Kings in the second half and overcome a double-digit deficit.
Interestingly, Howard’s performance came after head coach Frank Vogel approached the center in the lead-up to the game and told him he wouldn’t play against Sacramento, which would’ve been the second straight game he sat out despite being healthy.
“I was pretty down when I got the news I wasn’t going to play, but I just told myself to stay ready,” the 35-year-old said.
“You never know what can happen in a game and instead of allowing that news to alter my energy and effort, I just tried to pick it up. If I got a chance to play tonight, I told myself I was just going to do whatever it takes to be able to stay on the floor.
“Coach gave me some good minutes tonight. I was able to just do what I can to help the team win and we got a good win, so I’m just thankful to have the opportunity to play.”
Howard said it felt “new just to be out there” on the floor for over 35 minutes considering he hasn’t clocked that many minutes in a single game for over a year. The center added he’s worked hard since the offseason to stay in shape for opportunities like that against the Kings.
He also gave credit to assistant coach Phil Handy and Lakers veteran Rajon Rondo for helping him develop the right mindset to prepare himself for any challenge that might come his way.
“Coach Phil Handy taught me about that before the game, Rondo is always in my ear, they call him the Dwight Whisperer, I don’t know where that came from,” Howard said.
“But I just got to stay ready. The biggest thing is mentally staying ready, but also physically getting in the gym, doing a lot of running, doing a lot of conditioning, and just making sure I just stay ready for whatever is needed. Any way I can be of service to this team, that’s what I’m here for.”
Vogel said he had to ‘light fire under his team’ at halftime in win over Kings
Vogel wanted to shake his team up after a lethargic first half against the Kings. Even though L.A. coped without LeBron James — who tested positive for the coronavirus earlier — the head coach told the players they failed to execute their gameplay.
“Every now and then, a coach has to light a fire under his team and today was one of those games,” Vogel said. “We weren’t giving the necessary effort in transition defense and with our pick-and-roll coverages.
“We talked specifically about tightening the screws on all day throughout our pregame and it wasn’t there in the first half, so sometimes you have to let them hear about it and it was the spirit at halftime and those guys responded.”
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