Los Angeles Lakers head coach Frank Vogel has been heavily experimenting with his roster in recent weeks with Dwight Howard the latest player to see his role changing rapidly.
Howard averages 5.2 points and 5.3 rebounds per game in 14.7 minutes on the floor this season. The 35-year-old center has played in 20 games this season, coming off the bench in each of them.
On Tuesday, Vogel told Howard he would sit out the 117-92 win over the Sacramento Kings. However, the head coach ended up deploying the 2004 No. 1 overall pick four minutes into the game. The center spent 35 minutes on the floor, scoring 12 points and collecting 13 rebounds.
“Just a coach’s decision,” Vogel said, explaining Howard’s inclusion in the rotation on Tuesday. “I felt like Dwight was going to give us a boost in this game and I was right. He played terrific. He came in and changed the game with his energy. Him in particular in that third quarter with his pick-and-roll coverage.
“He’s more familiar with what we do, so he came in and just really set a tone with physicality and with effort, communication, and obviously helped us on the boards and his plus/minus is plus 27, so just a hell of a night for him.”
Howard felt down initially after being told he wouldn’t play against the Kings, but he stayed ready in case Vogel called his name — and eventually reaped the rewards for keeping the right mindset. Overall, the three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year has said that perseverance is one of the Lakers’ most important traits.
“When you have a slow start to a season like we’ve had, that’s gonna test your character and I think it’s really just been bringing us together,” Howard said. “And understanding that we’re gonna need each other more and more in order to win. It’s a great test for us every night, we’re gonna get teams’ best shots, teams are gonna make crazy shots against us, they’re gonna play lights out.
“And every game is a test and it’s really a test of our character and how strong we’re gonna be together and tonight was a great test and I thought we passed. But we got to continue to pass each and every test that we have because it’s gonna be a very long season.”
Vogel hints at starting Howard in future games
Even before the victory over the Kings, Vogel suggested Howard’s role could increase in the coming weeks. Although DeAndre Jordan has started games over the 35-year-old center this season, the head coach didn’t rule out a change in the Lakers’ hierarchy.
“It’s not always gonna be DJ, sometimes it will be Dwight,” Vogel said. “You could see Dwight in the starting lineup with DJ being the third center or whatnot. We’ll continue to evaluate that going forward.”
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