When DeMarcus Cousins went down for the 2019-20 NBA season with a torn ACL, Los Angeles Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka and head coach Frank Vogel responded quickly.
In a controversial move, the Lakers signed Dwight Howard to a one-year, non-guaranteed deal in what is now his second stint with them.
Howard will now become a role player for a team that he was once supposed to be the next great center for. However, things are much different this time around and Howard has been through a lot since his last try with the Lakers. It’s this journey — which Pelinka and Vogel believed humbled him — that allowed them to pull the trigger on a deal.
Pelinka spoke about what made this deal possible, starting with Howard’s openness to sign a non-guaranteed deal.
“It was the interaction with him. It started with his openness to a concept of a non-guaranteed contract. The first messages that he brought to coach and I were, ‘Listen, I’ve had chapters in my career as a superstar where people were afraid to hold me accountable and I want to be held accountable so I’m willing to sacrifice millions of dollars with his former team to come on a non-guaranteed contract,’ so he put his money where his mouth was,” Pelinka said of Howard’s mindset.
“He came in and he worked out… it was almost like a draft workout. It took a lot of humility to come in as a guy that’s been a first-team All-NBA player and felt like he needed to try out and earn a spot and that showed some character changes,” Pelinka said of Howard’s workout.
Vogel also saw a change in Howard’s willingness to be a role player over an All-Star player, especially since his apparent goal is to play four or five more years in the league.
“The humility piece was the biggest thing for me. I had read somewhere that he wanted to play four or five more years and I laid out how that was gonna look. For him to do that, it’s gonna have to take a shift in his expectation of roles with teams and that he still has the ability to be a star in his role — but to be a role player,” Vogel said.
“We laid out that’s what it would look like here. He appeared to have a genuineness about wanting to just be a part of it and have a chance. And his willingness to accept any role that we lay out for him. To me, it showed me that he was serious… that he could help us and we move forward with it.”
For the time being, it genuinely feels like Howard is ready to make the necessary changes to be successful with the Lakers. Obviously, Howard has said similar things before, but the intention behind it does feel more real. Now, he’ll have to prove it on the court and if he can, he may be one of the most important signings of the team’s offseason.
If Howard can’t, he’ll be cut from the team without any financial strain. Pelinka said it best when he said it’s the perfect time for Howard to put his money where his mouth is.