Very few people would argue with the point that Dwight Howard has been the biggest — and most pleasant — surprise for the Los Angeles Lakers so far.
In his second stint in Los Angeles, Howard has provided a major boost for the team with his defense, rebounding, and overall energy.
There were a lot of questions surrounding Howard coming into the 2019-20 NBA season. In addition to his recent injury concerns, the ongoing question with him throughout his career was his dedication and seriousness to the game. Many have taken his tendency to joke around as proof that he doesn’t care, but he has worked hard to remove that and his teammates have noticed.
According to Sam Amick of The Athletic, teammates noticed Howard watching film with head coach Frank Vogel on the team’s flight back from China and he has made a conscious decision to cut back on his playfulness:
As one source said earlier this season, it was widely seen as a great sign when teammates noticed Howard studying game film with Vogel for a large portion of the Lakers’ flight back from China in the preseason. His dedication and demeanor, it appears, have been on point thus far. And as Howard and I discussed recently, he has made a conscious choice to steer clear of the poorly-timed playfulness that so often rubbed his previous teammates the wrong way and led to the idea in some league circles that he sometimes lacked professionalism.
There is a time to be serious and a time to joke around. Shaquille O’Neal was one of the most playful players the NBA has ever seen, but he understood when it was needed and when it was time to be serious. Howard never quite understood that and it often led to issues with teammates.
Of course, as players get older, they become wiser and learn a lot about themselves and how to navigate situations and that seems to be the case with Howard. Now in his 16th season in the league, he has a much better understanding of what he needs to do to be effective, particularly in his role with the Lakers.
It’s unknown whether Howard will be able to keep up this level of play, but he has rededicated himself to the game and it is paying dividends to both himself and the Lakers.