Dwight Howard‘s career has been on the decline for several years now, and this offseason, it appeared he may have used up all of his chances and was facing the real possibility that his NBA days might be behind him. But in an unexpected turn of events, the Lakers swooped in and offered the former Defensive Player of the Year a shot to salvage his reputation.
The fact that it was the Lakers made things even more confounding. Howard had spent one tumultuous season in Los Angeles in 2012, which ended with an ugly exit that left everyone, particularly fans, with a sour taste in their mouths as Howard’s tenure was marred by rumors of locker room discord and perceptions of laziness and apathy on his part.
Yet, under new management, the organization was willing to let bygones be bygones so they could try and shore up a frontcourt that was one of their biggest questions marks heading into the season. Howard has expressed at least some level of contrition about his previous failed stint, as well as a willingness to fill a role that would best suit the team’s needs.
Ice Cube, who had plenty of unkind things to say on his way out the door last time around, has likewise urged fans to give Howard a clean slate, and now, even Kobe Bryant is offering something of a public endorsement for Howard as his second go-around gets underway. Via Arash Markazi of The Los Angeles Times:
“I’m happy for him because sometimes we don’t realize how much we love the game and miss the game until that window starts closing or it’s closed,” Bryant said. “Then you’re like, ‘Oh damn, I really miss playing the game. I want another opportunity to show what I can do.’ Sometimes you don’t know if that opportunity will ever come again. For him, I really believe he’s appreciative of the opportunity and I think he’s going to make a hell of an impact because of the new appreciation he has for playing the game.”
Bryant and Howard’s rocky relationship made headlines prior to his departure in 2013, though apparently enough time has passed that Bryant is willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. Howard didn’t make much of an impact through the team’s first two games, but he had something of a breakout performance in a win over the Hornets on Sunday, scoring 16 points on 8-for-8 from the field and grabbing 10 rebounds.