Dwight Howard says he will play for Lakers when season resumes at Disney World

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Dwight Howard will play for the Los Angeles Lakers when the NBA season resumes at Disney World later this month, as he mentioned during an interview with CNN on Monday night. Howard had previously been undecided for a number of reasons. He was one of many players, alongside Kyrie Irving and Avery Bradley, who felt uncomfortable with the idea of playing basketball while protests against police brutality were ongoing, thinking that providing fans with a distraction would take momentum away from social justice reform. Additionally, the mother of Howard’s six-year-old son, Melissa Rios, died in March following an epileptic seizure. 

“I feel like we have a great opportunity, the Lakers do, to win the title this year,” Howard said. “I have a contractual obligation to my teammates, to my fans, the Lakers, the organization and everyone. But 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 begin a lot of work here in Atlanta and around the nation as far as making sure people don’t forget about us and what’s going on in our communities.”

In addition, Howard will be doing his part to help promote the type of change that the NBA has prioritized during the hiatus as he pledged to donate his salary to help make a difference off of the court. 

“I’m going to use my salary,” Howard stated. “All the money, the paychecks I’ll be getting down in the bubble, to help push this ‘Breathe Again’ movement and just make sure people don’t forget about what’s going on in our society.”

Howard’s decision to play is a major relief to the Lakers. Bradley, their starting point guard, has already announced that he won’t play when the season resumes at Disney, choosing instead to spend time with his family and focus on projects that help his community. Additionally, starting center JaVale McGee has asthma, and while there have been no indications as of yet that it will impact his availability at Disney, it is a risk factor in the middle of a pandemic. Losing Howard would have been a potentially devastating blow to the Lakers’ depth, especially if McGee is unable to play for any reason. 

The NBA’s transaction window passed on July 1. Therefore, had Howard decided not to play, the Lakers would have been unable to sign a veteran replacement for him, such as DeMarcus Cousins, the player Howard was signed to replace during the offseason. Instead, they would have been limited to players with three years of experience or less. No such player could have helped the team as much as Howard has. 

Howard has had a redemptive season for the Lakers on multiple levels. His stock had declined for years based on age, injuries and perceived issues in locker rooms, but he has been a stellar backup in his second stint in Los Angeles, shooting over 73 percent from the field while contributing 7.4 rebounds and 1.2 blocks in 19 minutes per game. His first go-round with the Lakers ended with him leaving after only a single season to sign a max contract with the Houston Rockets in free agency. At that point, it seemed as though fans in Los Angeles may never forgive him. Now? He’s become a fan-favorite. 

The Lakers were already at a major disadvantage entering the Disney bubble without Bradley. With Howard, they will at least be able to keep their dynamic center duo intact. Depth will be at a premium when the season restarts, and for now, the Lakers still have most of theirs. 

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