Los Angeles Lakers: Center Dwight Howard has felt ‘pure joy’ throughout season

(Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
(Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images) /

While it was a risky move at first, Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard has been rock solid for L.A. all season long.

After big man DeMarcus Cousins suffered a torn ACL in August, the Los Angeles Lakers had a rather glaring void. The team desperately needed another center to come off the pine.

Later that same month, the Lakers made what many folks deemed a bold, and, better yet, desperate move. The 16-time world champions signed a guy that some fans wanted no part of.

This particular player previously played for Los Angeles during the 2012-13 campaign. Suffice to say, because the Lakers did not go far that year, that it itself made many fans salty. Lakers’ supporters are not the type to easily forget and call it a day.

Accordingly, when L.A. picked up a familiar face from that same group, no one knew what to expect. To be specific, the very man they acquired, Dwight Howard, had a questionable past to put it mildly.

Howard did not always get along with head coaches. Moreover, the center was known for public complaints about not getting enough touches in the paint. Howard was also renowned for being a bit of a goofball at inopportune times.

For those reasons and more, the Lakers were certainly taking a gamble on Howard. It sheds light on why his initial contract was a one-year, non-guaranteed one. The team planned to hold the eight-time All-Star on a short leash due to how much of a distraction he was in the past.

However, the 2019-20 version of Dwight has been nothing short of impressive. The Lakers’ big man has appeared to clean up his act in every sense of the word. What is more is that he seems to be solely focused on the game of basketball.

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Howard has been an excellent addition for L.A. and has taken away some of the burden JaVale McGee and Anthony Davis naturally carry as members of the starting five. Granted he is not the elite player he once was, Howard has clearly proven he still belongs in the NBA.

The most noticeable element Dwight has provided has been his defense. He is constantly active and has been a pesky rim protector for opponents to face. In fact, even though he is not even getting 20 minutes per night, the big fella is averaging 1.4 blocks.

Additionally, Howard has been no slouch on the glass thus far. He is averaging 7.5 boards per contest, which is a solid figure for a backup center. Those rebounding totals have grown even higher of late due to Davis’ injury.

It is also crucial to point out the following about Howard. There is this youthful, contagious exuberance he displays 24/7. He is enjoying every moment out there and is making the most of the opportunity he has been bestowed with.

It sounds silly to reference, but the sheer fact he has actually made a few longballs this season says enough. He is loose and is just having fun as a member of the Lakers.

Via Helene Elliott of the Los Angeles Times (per text from Ron Gutterman of Lakers Nation), Howard recently talked about how happy he has been this season.

"“I think a lot of times in the past it wasn’t accepted for guys to have fun like this on the court. But I think what it’s showing is just pure joy,” Howard said. “For me, this is like my sanctuary. For artists, they want to show how thankful they are, they make music. For a basketball player, it’s on the court.”"

The joy Howard alludes to has been impossible to not take note of. Even when he is taking a breather on the bench, he is constantly cheering his teammates on with a glistening smile that could light up the darkest imaginable room.

An important ingredient in all of this is that Howard has accepted his role with grace, per Elliott. He has never had any complaints about the amount of minutes he is getting or anything of that sort.

On that note, the bulky player has really stepped up maturity wise this year. Given that L.A. is hoping to win a title this year, the fact that Howard has been okay with taking a back seat has been beyond beneficial.

Superman has been in the league for a long time. This marks his 16th season, so it can become easy for players to feel this sense of entitlement. Despite that, the Lakers’ backup big man has excelled in being a team player in lieu of craving all the attention.

At any rate, Howard seems thrilled to be in the situation he is in. According to Elliott (via text from Gutterman), the Laker is giving “135%” every time he steps onto the hardwood.

"“I’m just happy to be out there playing basketball,” he said. “Playing here in L.A. has been such a blessing for me and I cherish every single moment. So when I’m out there on the floor I can’t do nothing, but give 135% and have fun in the process.”"

To know that Howard views his second chance with the Lakers as a “blessing” says a great deal. His level of play has been impressive and he never seems to take a play off. Certainly, he is taking things seriously this time around.

Given that Davis remains out, it is fair to expect that Howard will continue to get greater opportunity moving forward. In the few games AD has missed, the latter has definitely made his presence known.

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Albeit signing Howard was a risk at first, the Lakers have benefited tremendously from it. He is performing at a high level and has caused no drama up to this juncture. That alone has been a blessing because few likely thought things would turn out this good.

Purple and gold fans will take it without a doubt. Howard’s evolution has been wonderful and he has done more for this team than the doctor ordered.