When you suffer a setback, such as Avery Bradley saying he wouldn’t be joining the team in Orlando for the restart of the NBA season, you might worry that the title is slipping away. However, if you then lose two stars, as Dwight Howard looked to be joining Bradley in his decision, it could be a disaster. 

The doubt

For Bradley, there was the concern for his son’s health as well as his desire to be free to advocate for social change. For Howard, the decision was whether he should create room to continue his role as a vocal advocate for social justice issues. However, he also experienced tough times in lockdown that impacted his decision.

Fortunately, for Lakers’ fans, Howard has decided to join up with his Lakers’ teammates when the season resumes. He left it late to make his decision – publicising the choice on July 7th. However, he has decided that he will donate his remaining game checks to his non-profit organisation Breathe Again. It is clear that the impacts of the George Floyd murder have done much to drive Howard to speak out even more.

The importance of his decision

A player is just one person and not the team. This is true of all players on the Lakers roster, including Lebron James and Anthony Davis (well – maybe not Lebron). Therefore, there shouldn’t have been much to worry about should Dwight Howard choose to stay away. Sure, it would be a blow but one that could be solved with some rotation of the bench.

However, Howard has had a surprisingly positive impact on the Lakers’ performances since joining last August. He came in to fill the spot of DeMarcus Cousins who tore his ACL. His task, at this late stage, was to prove he had a place on the roster. Howard did just that – becoming a positive influence on the type of play that Vogel is looking to champion at the franchise.

However, it is not only his influence on the court that has been impressive. He has been hugely positive off-court too. He has become a fan favourite, sparking a lot of loyalty after the initial scepticism about his ability. He had previously played for the Lakers in the 2012-13 season and failed to make much an impact at all. However, it would be unfair to judge him for this stay, as he needed six months to recover from back surgery. He only managed 4 weeks of training camp preseason and was still working himself to top fitness when the season started. He then had a shoulder injury that accounted for a lot of the games. He was frustrated playing with the team at the time, as Kobe Bryant was a shining light and dominated ball possession.

So far this season, Dwight Howard has played an average of 19.2 minutes per game this season, with an average of 7.5 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.2 blocks.

How did he make his way back to the Lakers?

Basketball going through the basket with spotlight in the back

Well, he made a bold move to the Houston Rockets to form an incredible partnership with James Harden and in doing so earned himself the All-NBA Second Team honours in this opening season with the Rockets. He stayed with the Rockets until 2016, becoming the first player for the team to shoot 10 out of 10 in a game. However, in June of this year, he refused a massive $23 million and instead became an unrestricted free agent – again with the bold move.

2016-17 he played for the Atlanta Hawks, his hometown team. He impressed in the first game with the team, grabbing 19 rebounds in their 114-99 win over the Wizards.  However, it was a short stay and he hopped over to the Charlotte Hornets for the season. Here he became a record-breaker with his rebounds once more but was traded to the Brooklyn Nets in July 2018 before hopping over to the Wizards. He missed all the training camp for the Wizards and every exhibition game. He only managed to start in the regular season in game eight, after an injury kept him benched. He was traded to the Grizzlies and then he was waived.

It is easy to see why the Lakers were a little confused when the Lakers picked Howard for the 2019-20 season. He has a spotty record of injury countered by some record-breaking moments with shots made and rebounds scored. It is easy to wonder whether the Lakers would expect to see the best of Dwight Howard on his return. Fortunately, he is going for records again, as he scored his season-high on January 13th of this year, with 9 out 11 shots made and a season-high of 15 rebounds. 

Let’s hope it is this record-breaker that shows up in Orlando. When he is on form he is a handful for any opposition and a real asset to the Lakers’ roster. Let’s face it, who wouldn’t want someone standing 6 foot 10inches and a solid 120kg hovering in center position ready to clean up should James and Davis not make the shot? Added to this he has a vertical leap of nearly 40 inches, which makes interceptions a cinch when all you do is leap into the arc of the ball and then offload to the talent around you.

Disney here he comes

So, in short, Dwight Howard’s choice to show up in Orlando for the resumption of the NBA season is a boost to the Lakers. Not only is he a powerful force on the court, but he is a leader for the team and the fans alike. We are proud that he is donating his game fee and we truly believe that the megaphone of the NBA will help him speak out even more loudly about social justice.