It’s a familiar story. The Los Angeles Lakers were giddy after landing arguably the best center in the NBA, a formidable shot-blocker and all-around dominant athlete who they believed would push them back over the hump in terms competing for another championship.
No, we’re not talking about Anthony Davis. The year was 2012, and Dwight Howard had just joined the Lakers, along with Steve Nash, in a quest to help Kobe get another ring. We all know how that story played out, with Howard promptly skipping town after a disastrous season that left the organization disarray.
Flash forward to 2019 and the new-look Lakers have striking similarities, right down to the part where they added Dwight Howard to the equation again, although this time in a dramatically reduced role as the former Defensive Player of the Year is simply looking to salvage what’s left of a career that’s been filled with frustration and disappointment in the intervening years.
Though Howard didn’t leave L.A. on the best of terms last time, he’s eager to wipe the slate clean, and he’s hoping for some reciprocity from the fans, especially after what has been, by his own accounts, a humbling personal experience. Via Dave McMenamin of ESPN:
“I never had any ill will toward any of the fans here in L.A.,” Howard said. “I loved this city from the first moment I’ve been here and started playing in the NBA. It was never nothing against anybody here [on] the team or anything like that, it was just a decision I made. I love this city. I love playing in L.A. I’m back here, so none of that stuff in the past even really matters to me anymore. I think we all have a fresh start.”
“It’s been six years, in 2020 it’ll be seven years. … I’m big on numbers. Seven is for new beginnings … I’m looking forward to having a fresh start with the fans and stuff like that. Show them my only dedication is to putting another banner up here in Los Angeles.”
Howard at least has L.A. icon Ice Cube in his corner (who you may recall had less than kind things to say about him on his way out the door back then). Still, he remains an easy target for some, most pointedly Shaq, who never misses an opportunity to drag his long-time nemesis.
Howard is hoping Lakers fans on the whole are feeling more magnanimous toward him, but he nevertheless has a long way to go to overcome a well-earned reputation for immaturity and a refusal to take things seriously. Otherwise, his second stint with the organization might be even shorter than the first.