Lakers bringing back Dwight Howard and Trevor Ariza among four former players
The Lakers had a busy Monday when the NBA’s free-agent market opened, bringing back two players who won championships with them, adding two more who played for them as well and losing a key contributor and fan favorite from the 2020 title team.
In what will be his third stint with the Lakers, center Dwight Howard agreed to join the team once again on a one-year deal, according to a person with knowledge of the situation not authorized to speak publicly.
Howard’s deal is for the veteran’s minimum exception, and it can’t be signed until Friday at 12:01 p.m. PDT. Until then, teams and players can only agree to terms.
The Lakers also agreed to one-year, veteran-minimum deals with 3-and-D wings Trevor Ariza, Wayne Ellington and Kent Bazemore, all of whom also previously played with the team.
The Lakers and Clippers have many holes to fill. The Times’ NBA reporters discuss the big names in play, all of whom will have to take small pay.
Alex Caruso, who worked his way up from the South Bay Lakers to become a key figure during the Lakers’ 2019-20 championship run, won’t be back. He agreed to a four-year, $37-million deal with the Chicago Bulls.
Caruso was an outstanding defender and solid three-point shooter for the Lakers. He became a favorite of fans for his hustle and work ethic, but apparently the Lakers felt they couldn’t afford him and let him walk.
Howard, 35, also won a championship in 2020 during his second stint with the Lakers, playing with force and energy for the team, but he joined the Philadelphia 76ers last offseason. He averaged seven points and 8.4 rebounds in 17.3 minutes during 69 games in Philadelphia, in his 17th season in the NBA.
Ariza, 36, played on the Lakers’ 2009 championship team. The late Kobe Bryant viewed Ariza as a little brother.
Ariza, who starred at UCLA and Westchester High, remains a very good defender and solid three-point shooter after 17 years in the NBA. He played for the Miami Heat last season, and the 6-foot-8 forward shot 35% from three-point range, averaged 9.4 points and played outstanding defense.
Ellington, who played for the Lakers during the 2014-15 season, had wanted to return to the team. Ellington, 33, shot 42.2% from three-point range last season for the Detroit Pistons. The 6-4 guard averaged 9.6 points in his 12th season in the league.
Bazemore, who played for the Lakers during the 2013-14 season, also is known for his ability to play defense on the wing and to knock down three-pointers. He averaged 7.2 points and shot 40.8% from three-point range in 67 games with the Golden State Warriors last season.
Portland kept former Laker Pau Gasol as an assistant coach after he injured his ankle. He still wanted to play, so he joined Spain’s Olympic team.
Even with those four players agreeing to deals, the Lakers still have to add more. The team entered free agency with only LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Marc Gasol and Alfonzo McKinnie under contract, and acquired superstar guard Russell Westbrook from the Washington Wizards in a trade that will be completed Friday.
The Lakers still have designs on keeping restricted free agent Talen Horton-Tucker, who emerged as a young contributor last season. And they still hope to sign guard Patty Mills, likely with the $5.9-million taxpayer mid-level exception, and 10-time All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony, probably with the veteran’s exception.
Guard Avery Bradley, who played for the Lakers during the 2019-20 season but opted not to join the team in the bubble on the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex near Orlando, Fla., is another candidate who might return to the team.
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