Does Dwight Howard Make Sense on the Lakers? | Open Floor Podcast

Open Floor Podcast
Sports Illustrated

While there has been a lot of movement across the NBA this summer, there is always a ton of attention on the Lakers. That much became clear when DeMarcus Cousins went down with an injury and talk about his potential replacement became all the rage.

Names from the past sparked up, with reports of a workout that included Dwight Howard, Joakim Noah and Marcin Gortat. The Washington Post's Ben Golliver discussed this and more with Mike Trudell, who covers all things Lakers for Spectrum Sports, Lakers.com and ESPN LA radio. 

UPDATE: Dwight Howard has agreed to a buyout with the Grizzlies and will sign a one-year, non-guaranteed deal with the Lakers.

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(Listen to the latest Open Floor podcast here. The following transcript has been edited and condensed for clarity.) 

Ben Golliver: Real quick, with Dwight, is it worth a shot? And what do you remember from the first go round?

Mike Trudell: So the first go round there was just a lot going on. I don't know if you remember this. So the NBA and—I want to say it was Inside the NBA but they do it on NBA TV—they do kind of a roundtable before the season. And Shaq made a comment that Dwight was just a screen-roll center. Just before that Lakers season with Steve Nash and so Dwight Howard heard that and wanted to show that he was a post-up player. And so that ended up being an issue with Mike D'Antoni. 

Golliver: He had real like kind of basketball father issues with Shaq, didn't he? I mean, it was real deep-seeded stuff.

Trudell: Yeah, I think so. I do think that permeated though in the season, and then we know at this point how that went with Kobe and with Nash and the whole season just didn't work out. And then eventually they make the move and I guess he makes the decision to go elsewhere. And so it didn't end well or go well there. But Dwight's been on a lot of teams since then. So I don't think you have to look at him or any player from their former team, like being with the Lakers six seven years ago. I think you look at how that player played last year, the injuries that they have, what they could do in a certain role. So you evaluate him like you do everybody else.

Golliver: So that's a good point because there is basically nobody from that team around, right? So like the Lakers thing isn't actually that relevant. I mean, the only people who are still there are what, Jeanie Buss?

Trudell: Yeah, I mean, basically. Those of us on the broadcast, I think a lot of the people within the actual Lakers office. But you're right, even the training staff, coaching staff, development staff, analytics guys, all of that is new. So there really isn't anybody left in the building from there.

Golliver: So there's no skeletons in the closet because they've all been removed and there's new people basically is what we're saying for Dwight. So your point on let's judge him about the more recent history I think is the right way to do this, rather than just saying, 'OK, it failed in 2013 so we shouldn't try to get right? Last year you basically have to write off, he was injured the whole way. In Las Vegas he was saying all the right things and he was in very good shape. So we have that as a sort of a starting point for this conversation. You have to give him credit there. 

But when I look at Dwight and I think about what the Lakers want to be, what kind of a team are they hoping to be. I mean, it's all about the playoffs, right? Dwight has been on a team that's advanced in the playoffs once since 2010, and it was a Houston team that was basically carried by James Harden. He's been on some pretty talented teams along the way there, and he's been in situations where even in Atlanta, where they started to really cut his minutes once they got to the postseason.

I think the fact that Dwight says all the right things during the offseason because he wants to continue to have his career and to see how far he can take it is a good thing, but it's not exactly controversial to say I don't necessarily trust him that once he gets into the situations... Is he going to stick to game plans? Is he going to be comfortable with basically no touches on offense? Because to me at this point he's basically a fifth option on offense, and I'm not sure that he is totally aware of that or has totally internalized that.

And then I think defensively it comes down to the health, but the impact there at least besides the one nice season in Charlotte, just hasn't been there either. And I just think that there's some, even putting aside the Lakers baggage from the previous tenure, which I think is the right thing to do, I just have concerns personality wise, focus wise. I've already raised this kind of questions about some of the things that Frank Vogel's dealing with. If I was Vogel I just wouldn't even want you want to deal with it. I wouldn't want to bring Dwight Howard in. I just think that the risks maybe outweigh the rewards. If there's somebody like Joakim Noah who does some of the same things that you're trying to get from Dwight or even Marcin Gortat. I mean, to me, those would be preferable options. 

Trudell: I just think this spot and really any spot on the roster, and Rob Pelinka publicly showed this throughout the summer, any spot on the roster has to complement LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Those two are gonna have the ball the most, things are gonna run through them and what player can excel in a role next to those guys. And in the case of needing a center, you either need to have a space five or you have to have somebody that can kind of take the banging defensively and just be really good at that and good in the locker room.

And so whichever god they're looking at that can do those things the best, they're gonna sign. And I don't know who it is; there might be some guys they're looking at that we don't even know about. Who knows? So there's probably a lot going on there, Ben. And ultimately, I'll pivot back to that same point I made before. I just think that Cousins going out you're going to lean more heavily on the guys that are definitely going to be in the rotation for big minutes. It's the Kyle Kuzma's. Maybe that means Kentavious Caldwell-Pope plays more. Those are the guys that are going to have the bulk of this responsibility. It's not necessarily going to be whoever they bring in as this last roster spot.

Golliver: I hear you on that. I just think for me on the priority list Dwight would probably not even be on the list. But you're right. I mean, we should probably not be overplaying the gigantic hole at center because ultimately it's going to be Davis in the moments that count and JaVale McGee is gonna be able to give you starter-level minutes like he did last season. 

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