When DeMarcus Cousins unfortunately suffered a torn ACL in the 2019 NBA offseason, the Los Angeles Lakers pivoted to Dwight Howard to fill the void — a move that was met with plenty of doubt and skepticism.
Howard was coming off back surgery that prematurely ended his 2018-19 NBA season and after being waived by Memphis Grizzlies, he drew little to no interest in free agency.
However, Cousins’ injury opened up the door for a reunion with the Lakers and so far he has more than exceeded expectations due to his team-first mindset and willingness to accept his role.
“We were lucky to be able to snatch him up late in the summer like that,” LeBron James said. “We’re happy to have him.”
Head coach Frank Vogel also discussed his early experience with Howard and how pleased he has been with his demeanor and attitude:
“I’m really enjoying my time with him. … He’s really bought into and bringing a seriousness about his business and his approach. He’s been all business. He’s really bought into that defensive-rebounding, lob-threat, roller type of role. It’s a big shift, but he’s really embraced it and excelled in that. He’s been a star in his role.”
There were questions about Howard’s fit on a Los Angeles roster that already employed big men in Anthony Davis and JaVale McGee but so far, they have worked well in the frontcourt together. Howard has looked rejuvenated and healthy in his second stint with the Lakers as he has been active and mobile on both ends of the floor.
The center has had his fair share of issues in previous stops in the NBA as he did not seem to enjoy the idea of being an ancillary piece of the offense, opting instead to be featured in the post. However, that has not been the case in Los Angeles as he has fully bought into his role as a big man who sets screens, rebounds the ball, and plays sound defense in limited minutes.
Howard’s play has assuredly turned heads around the league and his newfound willingness to do what has been asked of him is a driving force behind the team’s 23-3 start to the season. Hopefully, he is able to maintain this level of effectiveness as the season wears on.