Looking for a new ending to his L.A. story, Dwight Howard is on the verge of becoming a Laker again, according to sources familiar with the deal.
Howard, an eight-time All-Star who won three defensive player of the year awards, has agreed to a buyout with the Memphis Grizzlies. He will sign a one-year non-guaranteed deal with the Lakers once he clears waivers.
The move brings back a controversial center who spent the 2012-13 season with the Lakers before shunning the team in free agency.
Howard worked out for the Lakers this week. According to a person familiar with his condition, Howard is fully healthy, having taken last season to recover from surgery on a disc in his lower back.
The Lakers had only one pure center on their roster after losing DeMarcus Cousins to a torn anterior cruciate ligament last week. They also worked out Joakim Noah and Marreese Speights this week.
Howard has become a journeyman late in his career but has started all but one game in which he has played throughout his career.
Drafted out of high school in 2004 by the Orlando Magic, he spent eight seasons there, taking Orlando to the 2009 NBA Finals, in which it lost to the Lakers.
In the summer of 2012, the Magic traded Howard to the Lakers against his wishes. He spent one season with the Lakers, sometimes clashing with Kobe Bryant and battling a severe shoulder injury during it but still playing in 76 games.
The following summer, the Lakers tried desperately to keep Howard, even erecting a billboard asking him to stay. Howard left and signed with the Houston Rockets instead. The Rockets got as far as the Western Conference finals with Howard on their team. Howard left Houston after three seasons and signed with his hometown Atlanta Hawks.
The Hawks traded Howard to the Charlotte Hornets in the summer of 2017. He averaged 16.6 points and 12.5 rebounds with the Hornets during the 2017-18 season and played in 81 games. A year later, the Hornets traded Howard to the Brooklyn Nets, who waived him.
Howard then signed with the Washington Wizards, but injuries once again hampered his ability to contribute. He had surgery to repair a disk in his lower back in November and played in only nine games last season.
The Grizzlies, to whom the Wizards traded Howard this summer, never intended to keep Howard. They gave Howard’s agent permission to speak with other teams to find a landing spot for Howard.
This time around, the Lakers will be expecting very different things from Howard. In 2012, they expected a franchise center who would propel them to championships. Now they are simply looking for a capable role player who can bolster a roster centered on LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
Still, in some ways, Cousins’ injury offered Howard a chance at redemption.