Dwight Howard has been nothing but a true professional since rejoining the Los Angeles Lakers ahead of the 2021-22 campaign — stepping up each time his name is called even after falling out of the rotation.
Howard moved from a fringe player to a starter, to sitting out four of the Lakers’ last seven games before Tuesday’s eight-point victory over the Sacramento Kings. The 36-year-old center still sat on the bench for tip-off, but head coach Frank Vogel deployed him in the first quarter amid L.A.’s continuing struggles in the paint.
Having entered the floor for the first time since Dec. 29, Howard instantly improved the Lakers’ rebounding as well as paint defense and offense. He ended the night with 14 points and 14 boards, including half of L.A.’s 14 offensive rebounds.
“Dwight has been a productive player for us this year,” Vogel said after the game. “He did reward me for throwing him in there. Played a hell of a game and it’s not easy to be a guy that isn’t playing every night and coming in and produce at a high level. I want to commend him on that on staying ready.”
Vogel said the Lakers who, like Howard, might find themselves out of the rotation should take inspiration from the experienced center’s professionalism and diligence, and try to emulate it.
“We’re looking at some different things with our team,” Vogel said. “Everybody understands that. Some guys are out of the rotation, may come back into the rotation. With Stanley [Johnson] not being there tonight, we’re gonna look at Trevor [Ariza] in the starting lineup and look at the minutes with Dwight coming off the second unit.
“There’s a lot of guys on this roster that aren’t playing that we believe in and Dwight being in there and staying ready proves a great point on what everybody else has to do.”
DeAndre Jordan on trade block as Lakers look to open more roster spots
While Howard could see his minute average rise soon, the writing seems to be on the wall for DeAndre Jordan and his time with the Lakers. After already moving Rajon Rondo in a trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Purple and Gold reportedly want to open up more roster spots by parting ways with the 33-year-old big man.
The Lakers are also believed to be shopping Kent Bazemore around ahead of the Feb. 10 trade deadline.
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