The Lakers still aren’t sure if Dwight Howard will join them in Orlando, but his name will be on the roster the team must submit today, writes Dave McMenamin of ESPN. The veteran center has been a vocal critic of the NBA’s restart plan and is dealing with off-court issues as well. Still, coach Frank Vogel said today on a conference call that Howard has expressed a desire to play.
“We’ve been in communication with Dwight the whole way,” Vogel told reporters. “We don’t know what the level of participation is yet. He wants to play. We’re hopeful he’s able to join us. We’re hopeful and optimistic that he’ll be able to join us in Orlando.”
Howard is in Georgia with his family, according to a league source, and is complying with the league’s home quarantine and testing protocol. He is taking care of his six-year-old son, whose mother died in March.
There’s more Lakers news to pass along:
- Vogel doesn’t expect J.R. Smith to take over Avery Bradley‘s role, but the coach believes Smith can help the Lakers in other ways, McMenamin adds in the same piece. “In terms of what he brings to the table, just the experience factor,” Vogel said. “I mean, this guy is a big-time player. He’s proven it over the course of his career. … We almost added him earlier in the year when we added Dion Waiters and now we have the luxury of having both. We’re not going to ask him to come in and be Avery Bradley. He’s going to come in and be J.R. Smith. He’s going to just fill that position, more than fill that role.”
- Smith didn’t participate in today’s opening of training camp, and Vogel has only had a brief conversation with the veteran guard, according to Kyle Goon of The Orange County Register. Vogel admitted that Smith’s prior experience playing alongside LeBron James factored into the signing. “His familiarity with LeBron and the way we built our team, obviously, around LeBron, there’s a lot of similarities to the things they did in Cleveland,” Vogel said. “That definitely is a factor in what we feel like JR can bring to the table in what is going to be a very short time to get acclimated.”
- GM Rob Pelinka believes the restart will be “as much of a mental test as it is a physical test” because of the unusual circumstances, McMenamin writes in a separate story. After a layoff of roughly four months, teams will have to rediscover their chemistry quickly to deal with a condensed schedule. “I think a team like ours, that has such a strong togetherness component, will have an advantage at that part,” Pelinka said. “This team of guys love being together and love playing together. I think that’s the significant part of the (first) 63 games.”