With the NBA’s return just around the corner, teams have begun making roster moves for the completion of the season at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida.
The Los Angeles Lakers were one of those whose roster was affected most by the time off as starting guard Avery Bradley opted out of the remainder of the season due to the safety of his family. In addition to Bradley, who also wants to use the time to address social issues, the status of Dwight Howard has also been uncertain for L.A. for similar reasons.
While it’s unclear how official the deadline is, many teams believed it to be Wednesday, with the Lakers also returning to their practice facility in a larger capacity in preparation for the season’s restart.
According to Brad Turner of the L.A. Times, the Lakers also had a team conference call that Howard participated in and left them optimistic he will be playing in Orlando:
Sources added that Dwight Howard was on Lakers Zoom conference call Monday, giving them added hope he will join them in Orlando for NBA restart to season. https://t.co/WUx7blhVWK
— Brad Turner (@BA_Turner) July 1, 2020
Howard has had a fairytale return to the Lakers this season, going from almost out of the league and hated in L.A. to contributing off the bench on a No. 1 seed, winning back the hearts of the fanbase in the process.
While Lakers vice president of basketball operations and general manager Rob Pelinka is hoping Howard will be joining the team, he understands the circumstance and will continue to support him regardless.
“Dwight is another player of ours that has an extenuating circumstance in addition to some of the social justice messaging he’s been doing, which we’re supportive of,” Pelinka said on a conference call with reports.
“One of his sons, a 6-year-old son, did tragically lose his mother several weeks ago. We have been working very closely, and I have been in contact with Dwight and his agent often.
“As you guys know, there was an opt out date that Dwight did not give notice that he was opting out, so we are going to continue to work through those extenuating circumstances with Dwight and support him, support his 6-year-old son and hope for the best — that he will be a part of our roster in Orlando. But that will be a continued process.”
Lakers head coach Frank Vogel echoed Pelinka’s sentiment that they will support Howard with whatever he chooses to do.
“We’ve been in communication with Dwight the whole way with supportive phone calls and text messages,” Vogel said. “We don’t know what the level of participation is going to be yet. He wants to play, we are hopeful that he is able to join us. He has an extenuating circumstance that he’s working with the league on. We’re hopeful and optimistic that he’ll be able to join us.”
The Lakers also made an addition to their roster on Wednesday, announcing the signing of JR Smith to replace Bradley.
Bringing back DeMarcus Cousins was theoretically an option if Howard chooses not to play, but Vogel does not anticipate the Lakers making any more roster moves.
“I am not 100% certain. The general rule on this thing is if we rule somebody out, then we can replace him. Otherwise he’s on our roster. We don’t have any intention of replacing Dwight’s roster spot when we believe he hopefully will be able to join us.”
The Lakers will be heading to Orlando on July 9, so Howard can easily meet them there from his home in Atlanta if he decides to play.
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