The last time Dwight Howard came to Los Angeles to be a Laker, he did so with a big smile and personality to match. This time, he wants to speak less and do more.
“I’d rather show you guys than say it,” Howard replied when asked what he’d learned about himself this summer. “So, I’d rather my actions be something you can critique instead of just on words. I’ve always said a lot of words, but I’d just rather show you guys.”
Seven years after trading for him in hopes of building a championship team, the Lakers have re-acquired Howard with a more modest ask. They signed the once-dominant center to a one-year, non-guaranteed deal worth the veteran minimum to play a position he’ll share with returning center JaVale McGee. Having become a journeyman in the six years since his departure, Howard sees a chance to do what he didn’t last time he was here.
“It’s a very big blessing to be able to come back here and play,” said Howard, an eight-time All-Star and three-time defensive player of the year. “Not too often in life you get a second chance or anything like that. This is an awesome experience. I’m looking forward to just being the best teammate, the best person in the community, the best I can be for this franchise. This is going to be an amazing time. Six years ago doesn’t seem like a long time, but a lot of things have happened.”
In summer 2012, the Lakers acquired Howard and two-time MVP Steve Nash in hopes of giving Kobe Bryant another championship run. Both players dealt with injury problems during the season and the Lakers got swept in the first round of the playoffs. At the time it was a tragedy for the organization, which surrendered multiple first-round draft picks, and that was the last time the Lakers went to the playoffs.
The Lakers tried to woo Howard during free agency the next summer, but he left for Houston anyway. Since then Howard has played for the Rockets, Hawks, Hornets and Wizards.
With the Wizards last season, Howard played in only nine games. He spent the season dealing with a lower back injury that required surgery. Then came a summer that caused Howard to hit what he’s described as “rock bottom” and reevaluate himself.
“It was just stuff going [on] in my personal life,” Howard said. “Mentally, physically and spiritually. It had nothing to do with me as a basketball player or anything like that. It was just personal things that I had to deal with which made me stronger.”
When newly acquired center DeMarcus Cousins tore his anterior cruciate ligament, a place opened up for Howard. Before they agreed to sign him, Howard assured the Lakers he was fully healthy.
More than that, though, he wanted them to understand his commitment to the game. He wanted the Lakers coaches, executives and players to know things had changed for him. He met with Anthony Davis, Rajon Rondo and McGee at the team’s training facility and assured them of his commitment.
“We’re trying to win a championship,” Howard said. “And you know, I think that everybody wants to know what level of commitment that I have, and what everybody else on the team has. So, I definitely understand it.
“I’m very committed to helping this team win a championship. It’s not just an interest of mine. It’s something that I’m super-committed to. And I’d rather just let my actions speak louder than any words that I can tell you. Let me kind of keep it short and sweet.”