From jeers to cheers
NBA BUZZ - Bobby Motus (The Freeman) - November 6, 2019 - 12:00am

He was Orlando’s number one pick in 2004 and was traded to Los Angeles in 2012.  Things did not work out for him in Hollywood that he was sent to Houston the following season. Along the way, he had 8 All-Star appearances. He was a Rocket for 4 seasons but because he refused change, was sent to Atlanta, then Charlotte and Washington.  In between, nagging back injuries contributed to his decline.

When he left the Lakers, every time his team visits the Staples Center, fans would welcome him with jeers.  In a twist of fate, he’s now back in his second tour of duty with Showtime and Laker fans somehow had forgotten the past and accepted back their prodigal son.

When free agent signee DeMarcus Cousins tore his ACL before the season started, the Lakers took a $2.5 million minimum gamble on a former superstar who used to outjump just about anyone in the league.  The full amount of that salary won’t be guaranteed until January 2020.  As long as he’s remains a Laker, he gets $14,500 daily.

At 33-year old, Dwight Howard is now past his superstar status but had found a way to contribute.  With his mobility, width and length, he had been setting screens, grabbing rebounds and blocking shots.  He is not asked to score anymore as most of the load falls on LeBron James and Anthony Davis.  But his points do not from post-ups but mostly from rolls, put-backs, tip-ins and lobs and in six games, had a 79% field goal conversion, making 19 out of 24 attempts.

Protecting the basket, Howard averaged 2.3 blocks per game, second only to the 3 blocks of Davis per game.  His per game averages (21 mins, 6.8 pts, 8.2 rebs) are better than starting center JaVale McGee (16.2 mins, 4.7 pts, 4 rebs, 1 blk).  It’s way below his career averages of 17.3 points and 12.6 rebounds but Howard is in for redemption, not ovation.  Stats will be secondary.

We’re two weeks into the new season and it’s too early to conclude that Howard is a changed man, is in for the better.  But with LeBron and Davis as teammates, there’s no reason for him to stray, and because his pay is on a daily basis, the Lakers can just drop him anytime before the year ends if he gets back to his old ways.

So far, so good.  The fans are cheering for him and if this continues and he stays healthy, coach Frank Vogel just might tweak the starting unit and let Howard start at center. 

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