No roster move was made by the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday, but that was all it took for center Dwight Howard’s resurgence to be cemented with the team.
The Lakers let the 2 p.m. deadline to waive Howard pass without letting their well-known back-up center go. Howard’s veteran's minimum $2.6 million contract for the 2020 season is now guaranteed.
The non-move means that Howard will almost certainly be with the team for the rest of the season, continuing a strong season that has already reportedly garnered him an invitation to the dunk contest.
That development might not be a surprise now, but there was once plenty of reason to think that the Lakers’ waiving of Howard was more a matter of “when” than “if.”
After dark times, Dwight Howard is doing all the right things
Howard returned to the Lakers, a team in which he seemed to have burned all bridges, last offseason after a miserable journeyman stretch of four teams in four seasons.
The 34-year-old Howard was considered a shell of his former All-NBA self, missed all but nine games last year due to injury and had a reputation for being a negative locker room presence.
The Lakers signed Howard as a replacement for the injured DeMarcus Cousins, and in a manner that presented no risk to them thanks to a non-guaranteed contract. Howard rewarded what might have been his last chance to stay in the NBA by turning into exactly the kind of player observers were hoping a post-stardom Howard could become.
In 36 games of coming off the bench with the Lakers, Howard is averaging 7.1 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.4 blocks. Not the flashiest numbers, but his value becomes apparent when you look at his efficiency.
The big man is shooting a career-high 73.8 percent from the field, his 19.1 rebound percentage would land him around Joel Embiid’s No. 7 spot on the NBA leaderboard if he played enough minutes, and opponents are shooting 4.1 percent worse than their averages when he’s in the area. Perhaps most importantly, the Lakers seem to genuinely like him.
On a team in which the offense is going almost exclusively through LeBron James and Anthony Davis, an efficient but not ball-dominant Howard is the kind of center the 29-7 Lakers can use. Now, they’ll have him around for the rest of the season.
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