The Los Angeles Lakers felt they had a complete roster and one that could easily contend for a championship — until DeMarcus Cousins tore his ACL, forcing them to search for less than ideal alternatives with the free agency market all but stretched thin.
That led them to a controversial reunion with Dwight Howard, whose ego and personality have run him through six teams since leaving the Lakers in 2013 NBA free agency.
The Lakers signed Howard to a non-guaranteed deal, meaning they can cut him at the first sign of trouble without affecting the team’s payroll in the slightest. Even a deal that’s non-guaranteed comes with some risks, especially when the player is as embattled as Howard. He’ll have to prove he can accept a minor role on no money without causing problems for the front office or other players.
The Lakers reportedly warned Howard about his past behavior and where that will get him this time around, basically saying they have no problems cutting him if it’s clear he hasn’t learned his lesson, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:
After completing a contract buyout with the Memphis Grizzlies, Dwight Howard will sign a non-guaranteed contract with the Los Angeles Lakers that comes with a clear message, league sources told ESPN: Disrupt this team — and you’ll be gone.
Just to get the Lakers to give him this chance over someone like Joakim Noah, Howard first had to prove he was physically capable of playing on an NBA court — a test that he passed easily due to his surgically repaired back and significant weight loss:
He showed the Lakers that his surgically repaired back is healthy and that he has lost 25 pounds to get into better condition, and ultimately the Lakers chose him over Joakim Noah, sources said.
Howard has caused a lot of problems for several teams over the past few years, and it almost feels like this will be his final chance in the NBA.
The Lakers are hoping the combination of having LeBron James and Anthony Davis — as well as the winning that will come with those two — will be enough to keep him on the straight and narrow for the entire 2019-20 NBA season.
If that happens, Howard could end up being a serviceable replacement for Cousins and a solid back-up for JaVale McGee. If not, he’ll be gone so quickly, it’ll hardly even be remembered that he was on the team when the 2020 NBA playoffs arrive.