Drama with Dwight Howard makes for interesting start to NBA free agency

Lakers center Dwight Howard, right, reacts next to Miami Heat forward Bam Adebayo.
Dwight Howard agreed to a deal with the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday, but that came after he tweeted out that he was returning to the Lakers.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

It was all just so Dwight Howard.

“I’m staying right where I belong. Laker nation I love ya’ll,” Howard tweeted. “Purple and gold never gets old.”

Seconds later, the tweet disappeared. And before those hamburger-crazy folks in Colorado got more than four car lengths closer to a double-double, he was a 76er.


With that the NBA’s worst breaker-upper was off on another adventure, headed to Philadelphia to build off a championship season where his reputation was rehabbed.

While you typically wouldn’t want to turn to Howard for an important lesson, he provided the NBA world with one on Friday.

Free agency is never boring — even when it seems like it might be.

The Lakers reach deals to add standout reserve Montrezl Harrell from the Clippers and Wesley Matthews while losing Dwight Howard to the 76ers.

With a couple phone calls and a deleted tweet, everything can change.

Free agency seemed like it could end up being a bit of a dud — the top names in the class likely staying put.

Pressed against the past when Kawhi Leonard, Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Jimmy Butler all swapped teams and a future where Leonard, Paul George, Giannis Antetokounmpo and LeBron James are all possibly free agents, a deleted tweet was going to maybe pass as the highlight of the day.

But never sell the NBA offseason short.

Led by the Lakers and Rob Pelinka, the first day of free agency delivered, with the defending champs reimagining themselves.

Getting veteran guard Wesley Matthews to replace Danny Green was savvy, if not fairly obvious.

Signing Montrezl Harrell, though, proved that keeping the drama out of free agency is impossible.

Turning down more money from Charlotte to save money on having to ship his insanely large sneaker collection cross-country, Harrell will be the most meaningful former Clipper to suit up for the Lakers since Lamar Odom.

Forwards Marcus Morris and Patrick Patterson agreed to re-sign with the Clippers, who lost Montrezl Harrell to the Lakers and JaMychal Green to Denver.

Harrell will give the Lakers an instant offensive boost off the bench, a high-energy scorer who will be a perfect pick-and-roll partner for LeBron James and Dennis Schroder.

He’s the reigning sixth man of the year, helping cure a Lakers bench that struggled to score for long stretches.

He also, though, was a defensive liability, with Denver exploiting it in the NBA playoffs. Doc Rivers’ trust in Harrell kept him on the court and, according to sources, was a factor in the Clippers’ decision to make a change on their bench.

Things could be different with the Lakers, a team with stronger locker room leadership and with Anthony Davis around to help clean up any mistakes.

Or they might not. That’s not for us to know tonight.

It’s too soon to know whether these were the right moves for the Lakers.

That story won’t be written until well into the future. But if you’re looking for a reason to celebrate what the Lakers’ accomplished, take a look at the team’s ability to execute a plan.

And so far, the Lakers have carried out theirs.

Forwards Marcus Morris and Patrick Patterson agreed to re-sign with the Clippers, who lost Montrezl Harrell to the Lakers and JaMychal Green to Denver.

On Thursday, general manager Rob Pelinka talked about keeping the Lakers in the mix for years to come. And in addition to getting better this past week, they also got younger.

“I do think keeping our ability to add great young players to our core for the future is something that makes a lot of sense because we don’t just look at this at all as a one- or two-year window,” Pelinka said.

“We want to stay competitive for the long term and make decisions that allow us to do just that and not just shoot all of our bullets to try and defend for one year. We want to be in a position of being a sustainable contender.”

They moved down that road Friday, laughing off a deleted tweet and pushing ahead to snag a key player from across town to put some juice into the first night of free agency just when it needed it most.