Lakers & Dwight, Gamble or Gambit?
How the Lakers’ signing of polarizing veteran center Dwight Howard to a 1-year non-guaranteed contract could end up being a savvy move
Never a franchise to resist swinging for the fences, the Los Angeles Lakers appear to have smartly hedged their bet and limited their downside while gambling Dwight Howard could help fill their loss of DeMarcus Cousins.
While expecting Howard to actually grow up and become a contributing force on the floor and tolerable member of the locker room would seem to be a long shot, the Lakers have set smart parameters for the experiment. Dwight’s ‘prove it’ contract is non-guaranteed deal, which means they can cut him anytime before January 7th without cost to the team. Howard has also been sternly warned: disrupt this team any way— and you’ll be gone.
What the Lakers have essentially done is give themselves a chance to test Howard as a replacement for DeMarcus Cousins until December 15, when most NBA free agents signed this summer become eligible to be traded. Should Howard fail to be a viable replacement for Boogie or turn into a pariah in the locker room, the Lakers could simply cut him and move on, something that would clearly signal the termination of his NBA career.
To Dwight’s credit, he seems to finally understand this is his last chance and failing this test and the opportunity to play with LeBron James and Anthony Davis and possibly win an NBA championship would be the end. He sold himself as an eight-time All-Star who had hit ‘rock bottom’ and promised he would humbly accept his role as a rebounder and shot blocker. He showed he was healthy, had lost 25 pounds, and was in great shape.
Unfortunately, that might not be enough to prevent Howard from making the same mistakes on the court and in the locker room that transformed him from being an MVP candidate to a player no one wants on their team. Obviously, Dwight must have shown the Lakers a big enough glimpse of how he might help the team in a joint workout with Noah and Speights to convince a skeptical front office and Anthony Davis to give him a chance.
I still think it’s a long shot Dwight will work out but the Lakers have done a good job creating a situation where he will get an opportunity to save his career and earn a contract and spot on the roster for the rest of the season. If he can somehow miraculously help the Lakers win a championship, it would be one of the most surprising and rewarding stories of what’s sure to be a season to remember. I wouldn’t put money on it but I will root for him.
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