The 2020 Lakers champ thinks he still has more to give.
Center Dwight Howard, most recently with your Los Angeles Lakers during the team’s ill-fated 2021-22 season, remains a man without a team as the calendar turns to November.
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The 18-year NBA vet is still looking for his next opportunity in the league. This writer expected the 6’10” center to eventually be slotted into a reserve role on a non-guaranteed deal at some point this season, much like DeMarcus Cousins was last year. It certainly seems like Howard may be better served exploring international basketball waters, where with his pedigree he could command a pretty solid salary.
During an appearance today on Shannon Sharpe’s Club Shay Shay, Howard discussed how he could chip in for three teams in particular: the reigning champion Golden State Warriors, the Boston Celtics, and the Brooklyn Nets.
“This time around, I asked to come to Brooklyn,” Howard revealed. “I talked to them. They said they need a big that can shoot. I’m like, ‘Y’all just had a big that can shoot’… I felt like that would have been a great pickup, a big that could protect the rim, play good pick-and-roll defense, rebound… the pick-and-roll with KD, Kyrie and Ben Simmons, I felt like that would have been lethal with me in it.” The 2-6 Nets are mostly playing string bean Nic Claxton at center (with Day’Ron Sharpe, Markieff Morris and even Simmons backing him up), and certainly seem like they could benefit from the addition of a bulky, defensive stalwart like Howard in limited minutes.
The 3-5 Warriors have stumbled out of the gate, thanks in part to the continued post-injury struggles of former All-Star shooting guard Klay Thompson. The club seems to be relatively set at center, with Kevon Looney starting, 2020 No. 2 lottery pick James Wiseman showing off his length and size off the bench, and face- and groin-puncher Draymond Green occasionally soaking up minutes as a small-ball five in certain lineups.
“I’ve been a Warrior my whole life,” Howard said of Golden State, using a typically cheesy Dwightcore pun. “They need a big. I’m Dwight Howard, [James] Wiseman can learn so much from me. To be able to teach him how to play defense and block shots. I see him as a person similar to David Robinson and his size and athleticism. There’s a lot of things that I could really teach him.”
The Boston Celtics are without starting center Robert Williams III as he recovers from arthroscopic knee surgery, but the team thus far has still looked like the class of the East, along with the Milwaukee Bucks. That said, having Howard in for the short-term future to help shore up its frontline could really help Boston. It would be a very Shaquille O’Neal-esque move to help a contending Celtics team in the twilight of his career after winning a title with Boston’s arch-rivals, so beyond the fact that this makes plenty of basketball sense, it would be a fitting conclusion to Howard’s likely first-ballot Hall of Fame career.
“They got a lot of young talent,” Howard acknowledged about Boston. “I’m all about defense, I understand it on a different level. Bill Russell was one of my heroes. One of the first books I read in high school was ‘Russell Rules’… I feel like me being a vet, helping out some of those young guys, those young bigs. It ain’t like I’m trying to come in and play 35, 45 minutes, but I can come in and give a team 20, 25 minutes and give you a good 12-15 points and 10 rebounds, and make sure the bench is hyped, make sure everybody on the team is ready to go every day.”
Boston is currently starting another former All-Star veteran, Al Horford, at center in the absence of Williams (Horford starts at power forward when Williams is healthy). Floor-spacer Luke Kornet gets the lion’s share of backup center minutes off the bench, while hyper-athletic Noah Vonleh is the team’s current third-stringer at the four and five. Another more washed-up ex-All-Star, Blake Griffin is an emergency bench option. Howard is better than both, and seems likely to at least eat into Vonleh’s minutes should the Celtics opt to sign him.
In 60 games with the Lakers last year (including 27 starts), Howard played 16.2 minutes a night, averaging 6.2 points on 61.2% field goal shooting, 5.9 rebounds, 0.6 assists, 0.6 steals, and 0.6 blocks.
Howard, who won his lone NBA title as a key backup for the 2020 Lakers, may no longer be the eight-time All-Star or three-time Defensive Player of the Year capable of leading a team to the NBA Finals, but he has proven in his recent seasons with the Lakers and Philadelphia 76ers that he can still contribute to playoff-caliber clubs as a pesky presence around the rim in limited minutes off the bench. He deserves another shot, so that he can leave the game on his own terms with his head held high. Here’s hoping he gets it.