Lakers Rumors: Dwight Howard to Sign Contract with LAL After Grizzlies Buyout

Megan ArmstrongAnalyst IAugust 23, 2019

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - JULY 06: Dwight Howard attends the NBA Summer League on July 06, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Cassy Athena/Getty Images)
Cassy Athena/Getty Images

Dwight Howard has finalized a contract buyout with the Memphis Grizzlies and plans to sign as a free agent with the Los Angeles Lakers after he clears waivers, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium.

ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Howard will have a non-guaranteed contract and that the Lakers are proceeding "with caution."

"Howard had several meetings with Lakers officials, and they'll give him a chance to show he's made changes in how he conducts himself," Wojnarowski added. "Lakers players were involved in process."

Charania reported Howard met with Lakers assistant coach Jason Kidd in an effort to convince the Lakers to sign him. "He will compete with [JaVale McGee] for the starting center job, and he explained to the Lakers that he’s ready to play as many minutes as needed and be a piece to help James and Davis," added Charania.

Speaking with Arash Markazi of the Los Angeles Times in mid-July, Howard sounded keen on returning to the Lakers, whom he played with for the 2012-13 season, or signing with the Los Angeles Clippers (h/t CBS Sports):

"I don't know what's going to happen, but I do love L.A. Staples Center is going to be rocking this season. When I played there it was rocking every night. The atmosphere is crazy, not just for the Lakers but the Clippers too. I just think all the hard work they've put in is paying off now. They've always been viewed as the Lakers' little brother, but they decided to stand out and be different and you have to thank guys like Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and Chris Paul for laying the foundation for this team, and then what Doc [Rivers] has done has been great. This is just all that hard work paying off."

Mutual interest from the Lakers was first reported by Sports Illustrated's Rohan Nadkarni on Aug. 17 after All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins suffered a torn ACL. Nadkarni relayed that Howard's name had been floated as a possible replacement despite how poorly his first stint with the team went.

The Lakers worked out Howard along with Joakim Noah and Mo Speights in Los Angeles, according to Wojnarowski.

The 33-year-old center had been traded to the Grizzlies by the Washington Wizards in July, and The Athletic's Omari Sankofa II reported at the time that Memphis wasn't planning on keeping Howard, calling it "purely a money-saving maneuver."

Howard exercised his 2019-20 player option worth $5.6 million. However, Wojnarowski reported later Friday evening that Howard surrendered nearly $2.6 million of that guaranteed salary to the Grizzlies in his buyout. Should he remain on the Lakers' roster beyond January, Wojnarowski added, he can make that $2.6 million back on his veteran minimum deal.

Last season was the worst of Howard's NBA career, as he only appeared in nine games for the Wizards. He last played Nov. 18 before undergoing an L4-L5 lumbar microdiscectomy on Nov. 30 to end his 2018-19 campaign.

Howard established himself as a star in the league long before his yearlong stint in Washington.

The Orlando Magic selected Howard with the top overall pick in 2004. With the Magic, he earned six of his eight career All-Star nods and all three of his Defensive Player of the Year honors—becoming the only player in history to win the award three consecutive seasons.

However, his career took a turn when Orlando traded him to the Los Angeles Lakers to pair with Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash ahead of the 2012-13 campaign. The superteam failed to fulfill expectations, and Howard departed for the Houston Rockets as a free agent the following summer.

Howard remained with Houston through the 2015-16 season before spending 2016-17 in Atlanta and 2017-18 in Charlotte.

His eight-time All-NBA career has eroded by his standards, but Howard has averaged a double-double in every season outside of 2018. He could still be a valuable asset to the Lakers in Cousins' absence alongside McGee.