Dwight Howard Set To Join Teammates In Orlando
During a Monday night interview on CNN, Dwight Howard stated his intention to join his Lakers teammates for the conclusion of the season within the Walt Disney World bubble in Orlando.
“I have a contractual obligation to my teammates, to my fans, the Lakers, the organization and everyone,” said Howard. “At the same time, I also have an obligation to my family and my community. Yes, I will be joining my team in Orlando, but during that time, we will be getting a lot of work done here in Atlanta and around the nation making sure people don’t forget about us and what’s going on in our community.”
Howard pledged the salary that he’ll be receiving for the remainder of his season towards his “Breath Again” foundation that he’s re-launching.
His teammates, with whom he’s been in contact, were certainly happy to hear that they’ll have him on the court.
“Happy for the news,” said Danny Green on a Tuesday Zoom call. “It wasn’t a surprise to me. I’m glad he’s with us, I’m glad he’s on board and I’m excited to have my guys back again in the bubble.”
“He has been a great teammate,” added Kyle Kuzma during his own call moments later. “He has no ego. He has just been focused on one common goal."
Howard, who played only nine games in the 2018-19 season for Washington and had back surgery in the offseason, has been a rock off the bench for the Lakers.
Howard has missed only one of L.A.’s 63 games, and averaged 19.2 minutes off the bench, occasionally closing games in a super-sized defensive frontcourt with Anthony Davis and LeBron James. He’s averaging 7.5 points on 73.2 percent shooting (2nd in the NBA) with 7.4 rebounds and 1.2 blocks. That’s an impressive 14.1 points, 13.8 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per 36 minutes, numbers not far off his career averages (16.8 points, 12.3 rebounds, 1.9 blocks in 33.6 minutes).
“Dwight is a key piece,” said Green. “Dwight has been a good spark for us off the bench and has actually changed a lot of games for us.”
Howard and Green are among L.A.’s many seasoned veterans, with 11 players boasting at least seven years of NBA experience. These are players that know what’s at stake in Orlando.
“We all know that it’s coming towards the end for most of us.,” Green continued. “You don’t get opportunities like this. Most of us have been in the league for a long time, and the guys that have experienced have been blessed to know how hard it is to get there. We know what’s at stake here.”
While we’ll have to wait and see when and where Coach Frank Vogel uses newly-acquired JR Smith and Dion Waiters, we know Howard will the anchor of the second unit alongside Kuzma. Bradley’s absence means that Kentavious Caldwell-Pope could join the starting lineup (LAL were 17-3 when he started for Bradley), opening up additional bench minutes for Alex Caruso, Rajon Rondo, Quinn Cook or one of the new wings.
“Throughout the season we got better and better as a unit,” said Kuzma. “For the majority of the season, we had some inconsistent play from our second unit. But having one of those guys step up is only going to have other people step up and be able to contribute.”
It’s a comfort for the Lakers that regardless of the rotation, LeBron will be there to lead the way.
“He’s been the leader he’s always been since Day 1,” said Green. “Continued to communicate with us, let us know what’s going on, in terms of on the court – where we can find a gym (to workout at) and off the court with the players association, injustices, coming together and using our platforms … everything, all around.
“He’s been a great leader in that sense. He doesn’t lead just by his words but by example. He’s at the gym early, he’s leaving late, and he’s the last guy probably working the hardest and the longest. He’s been great. There’s a reason why he’s one of the greatest of all time.”
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