Dwight Howard’s first stop with the Los Angeles Lakers didn’t go as planned, but his second stop with the team will be much different.
Back in 2012, Dwight Howard became a member of the Los Angeles Lakers. The then 27 year old Howard joined a 34 year old Kobe Bryant and 38 year old Steve Nash. At the time, Howard was a star in the league. Prior to joining the Lakers, Howard had been a six time All-Star after leading the Orlando Magic to the playoffs six straight times, including one NBA Finals appearance.
Coming off a season in which he averaged 20.6 points, 14.5 rebounds and 2.1 blocks, Howard was expected to be a star for his new team. It was at this same time that Howard’s career would never be the same. From there on out, Howard has bounced around the league, spending time with the Rockets, Hawks, Hornets and Wizards.
2012 to 2016
In his first season with the Lakers, Howard’s stats didn’t look as bad as things actually were. Howard averaged 17.1 points, 12.4 rebounds (led the league) and 2.4 blocks. The Lakers finished that season with a record of 45-37, making the playoffs, but went on to lose in the first round.
The very next season, Howard moved on to the Houston Rockets, where he spent the next three seasons of his career. Why did Howard move on so quickly? There were several factors that likely went into Howard moving on, but to put it simply, Howard wasn’t the star he was with the Orlando Magic any longer. Howard wasn’t able to take a team of aging stars deep into the playoffs, as he hoped to do when he joined the team. Sure, his stats were still good, but individual stats and team wins are two very different things.
Howard’s short time as the star player for the Lakers seemed to take a toll on him. That’s why he split to join James Harden in Houston. Unfortunately for Howard, he was still expected to perform at a superstar level. Again, his stats looked good, but the team had another early out in the playoffs. The longer Howard played in Houston, the worse he got. Clearly, he still couldn’t handle having to perform at such a high level.
I’ll just go ahead and skip over the next few years of his career, as the story is the same.
Lakers Round Two
Howard’s first stop with the Lakers didn’t work out, but now he has a second chance. This time around, Howard will be a much more effective player for the Lakers than he was back in 2012. His stats won’t be as high, but his impact on the team will be much greater.
Well, this time around, Howard isn’t expected to be a star. This time the Lakers are bringing him in to protect the rim and grab rebounds in the absence of Boogie Cousins.
Instead of having to be a star with a rapidly declining Kobe Byrant and a Steve Nash who was about to walk away from the game, Howard will now be asked to play a specific role next to LeBron James and Anthony Davis. LeBron may be getting up there in age, but he can still perform at a very high level. We all know Anthony Davis is a star.
With LeBron and Davis, Howard will not be required to carry the team. He won’t be expected to be a star like he was the first time around. Instead of averaging 17+ points per game, we should look for Howard to average 10 points per game or less.
While Howard’s points will be way down, he still has the talent to be a good rebounder and shot blocker for this Lakers team. That’s what the Lakers expect from Howard, and that’s exactly what they’re going to get. He won’t have the ball in his hands nearly as often, just when LeBron or Davis pass it to him down low or he grabs a board.
I believe the Lakers made the right move by giving Howard a second chance with them, but they’re making an even better move by making the expectations for him very clear before he even steps foot in the building.