Dwight Howard to sign with Lakers in hopes of bouncing back from ‘rock bottom’

Jack Baer | Yahoo Sports

Dwight Howard is headed back to Los Angeles.

The veteran big man plans to sign a one-year, $2.6 million deal with the Los Angeles Lakers after finalizing a contract buyout with the Memphis Grizzlies, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania. The deal is reportedly non-guaranteed.

The 33-year-old Howard was acquired by the Grizzlies in a cap-clearing trade last month with the Washington Wizards, who received C.J. Miles in return. The Grizzlies never intended to keep Howard for the season and were apparently unable to find a trade partner that desired Howard.

Dwight Howard and the Lakers reunite

The deal will return Howard to a team where had a disastrous first stint. The center burned several bridges in his quest to force a trade from the Orlando Magic to the Lakers, only to struggle with injuries and conditioning, and squabble with Kobe Bryant over usage. Howard eventually left the Lakers after one season to sign a max contract with the Houston Rockets.

Despite that history, the Lakers are still willing to bring Howard back after losing DeMarcus Cousins for the season due to a torn ACL. Howard now projects to be the team’s back-up big man behind JaVale McGee, the only other center currently on the roster. The team had also reportedly considered bringing in Joakim Noah.

Howard has shown he can still put up decent numbers as a center when he’s on the court, having posted 15.0 points, 12.4 rebounds and and 1.4 blocks in 29.8 minutes per game while shooting .588 from the field. Of course, health has been a significant concern as he missed nearly all of last season with a butt injury.

The Lakers won’t need much from Howard beyond rebounding, interior defense and finishing inside the paint with LeBron James and Anthony Davis running the show. The question becomes whether Howard is willing to accept that smaller role.

Howard on thin ice at this point of his career

It’s quite understandable the Lakers would want to limit their risk with Howard through a non-guaranteed deal, given the former All-Star’s turbulent track record over the last few years.

Howard is now set to play for his fifth team in five years, having left town after each season with a diminished reputation. He’s consistently talked about how he’s personally changed with each recent stop, but the results have still disappointed.

According to Charania, Howard got an in with the Lakers after convincing top assistant coach and former Olympics teammate Jason Kidd that he had actually changed. Howard was also reportedly able to lobby Lakers players and officials by admitting he had hit “rock bottom” last year.

From The Athletic:

League sources said Howard had a convincing and emotional meeting with the players and Lakers officials, explaining how he had reached rock bottom a season ago and needed to find a new mindset in his life. On and off the floor. He was not the teammate he needed to be in playing for three teams in the past three years. He did not take the game seriously enough, he did not understand what was needed to turn the corner.

One source told Charania that Howard looked “amazing” during a workout with the Lakers on Thursday, and he also reportedly surprised officials by showing up to the Lakers’ facility a day early for an impromptu workout.

Despite all his struggles, Howard is still on NBA roster and has his best shot at a championship ring in years. We’ll see if he’s able to make it work this time.


James Harden blames media narrative for MVP loss to Giannis Antetokounmpo

Jack Baer | Yahoo Sports

You’ll be shocked to hear this, but a member of the Houston Rockets organization thinks people don’t properly appreciate James Harden.

In the past, there was the Rockets’ official Twitter pulling a Kanye West after Harden lost last season’s MVP award to Giannis Antetokounmpo. Then there was Rockets general manager Daryl Morey casually saying Harden is a better scorer than Michael Jordan.

Now, we’ve got the man himself quibbling with his MVP loss.

James Harden has a theory about why he lost MVP

During an interview on Houston-area radio station 97.9 The Box, the topic of Harden’s historic season last year came up. After some prodding from the host, Harden began discussing the MVP race and his public perception.

Harden’s biggest point of grief: a media narrative that formed around him.

The discussion begins around the 6:08 mark in the video below.

The full transcript of the exchange:

Host: I know you won’t say it, but I’m going to say it. I was pissed off when the MVP went down. I swear to god, I turned my TV off and I said ‘It’s politics, man.’ I know you probably don’t get involved, man I was hot.

Harden: Nah, but I think the same way you think.

Host: This man just had a historic year.

Harden: One for the books. Even when I’m gone, they’re going to talk about it.

Host: Did you get hot? Were you mad?

Harden: It’s out of my control. I think once the media, they create a narrative about somebody from the beginning of the year. I think they just take the narrative and run with it the entire year. I don’t want to get into any details, but all I can do is control what I can do. I went out there and did what I was supposed to do at a high level, you know what I’m saying? A few seasons where anybody’s ever done that before.

Harden doesn’t specify what exact narrative cost him the MVP, but the Rockets superstar isn’t lacking for possibilities. They could include criticisms of Harden as a ref-dependent volume scorer, Harden being considered the NBA equivalent of a system quarterback and Antetokounmpo’s Bucks quickly establishing themselves as the East’s biggest upstart.