Dwight Howard

Lakers Notes: Davis, Howard, Caldwell-Pope, Kuzma

Anthony Davis has transformed the Lakers’ defense in his first season in L.A. and could be in line for his first Defensive Player of the Year award, writes Dave McMenamin of ESPN. Davis is averaging a league-best 2.7 blocks per game and has become the anchor of a rapidly improving defensive unit. Going into last night’s win at Utah, the Lakers ranked fifth in defensive rating, third in points allowed per game and seventh in opponent’s field goal percentage.

“I think he can and will win Defensive Player of the Year this year,” coach Frank Vogel said. “I think there’s no one in the league like him defensively in terms of being able to guard all positions, protect the rim the way he does and deflect the basketball, contain the basketball. There really isn’t anyone in the league like him and if our team defense continues to play at a high level throughout the year, I think he’ll win it going away.”

Davis has been in the top five of the DPOY voting a couple times and believes he should have won the award two years ago. He said he developed his defensive philosophy by studying Kevin Garnett and Dwight Howard, who is now a teammate.

“I’ve watched him grow over the years to blossom into a really great player on both ends of the floor,” Howard said. “So, really proud to see him sticking by his word and doing what he has to do every night to make this team better.”

There’s more Lakers news to pass along:

  • One of the reasons the Lakers have the league’s best record is Howard’s willingness to accept a complementary role, observes Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times. He’s giving the team quality minutes as a backup center without demanding to be the focus of the offense. “Throughout Dwight’s career, he’s been a guy you bring the ball down and you throw to him in the post and everybody works off of him,” LeBron James said. “Now he’s a screener. He’s a roller. He’s a guy who facilitates the offense if you pass it in to him. He gets the ball to the guards and he waits for his opportunities and he’s basically been great in that role.”
  • Kentavious Caldwell-Pope often heard boos early in the season, but his game has improved since he became a starter, Turner adds in a separate story. KCP is averaging 10.6 PPG while shooting 52.5% from the field and 47.7 on 3-pointers since an injury to Avery Bradley moved him into the starting lineup.
  • The Lakers still need to develop a dependable third scorer to go with Davis and James, notes Pete Zayas of The Athletic, who examines how Kyle Kuzma can fit that role.

Wizards Notes: Howard, Miles, Beal

After injuries wiped out nearly all of his 2018/19 season, Dwight Howard made promises to new Wizards general manager Tommy Sheppard that he never got a chance to fulfill, writes Fred Katz of The Athletic. Howard suffered a back injury before training camp and played just nine games last year. Entering the second season of his two-year contract, Howard vowed to Sheppard that things were going to be different.

“I told Tommy I was gonna lose 30 pounds and come back in the best shape of my life and we were gonna have a shot at winning a championship,” Howard said. “That was my goal all summer, to lose weight and come back better than ever.”

Howard delivered on his promises, but not in D.C. He was traded to Memphis in July to create more minutes for centers Thomas Bryant, who re-signed this summer, and Moritz Wagner, who was acquired in a trade. Howard reached a buyout with the Grizzlies and accepted a non-guaranteed offer from the Lakers. It marked his second straight summer with a buyout arrangement and his seventh team in the past five years, but he’s grateful for the chance to rebuild his reputation.

“A lot of times, you gotta outlive the lie,” he said. “I’ve been lied on for many years about who I am as a player, person, my character. So, I just wanted to get into good shape. If I say something, I’m gonna do it. I’m gonna be that way, and (that’s) not gonna change.”

There’s more Wizards news to pass along:

  • The team is holding out hope that C.J. Miles won’t need surgery for his injured left wrist, relays Candace Buckner of The Washington Post. Miles damaged ligaments while taking a charge in Tuesday’s game and can’t visit a specialist until Monday when the Wizards are back from their current road trip. An operation would sideline him for about four months and likely end his season. “Right now, they’re talking to the doctors, talking to C.J. as well and our staff and have a game plan, I’m sure, the next couple of days,” coach Scott Brooks said.
  • Bradley Beal doesn’t regret his decision to accept a two-year extension, even though Washington is off to a poor start at 6-11, according to Dan Woike of The Los Angeles Times. Beal could have turned down the offer and possibly paved the way for a trade to a contender, but he opted to commit to the organization through at least 2021/22. “It’s easy for people in all walks of life to see the grass as greener on the other side and not to see and appreciate your current environment,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “And I do admire that in Bradley.”
  • Beal blamed weight gain over the past two seasons on Couvade Syndrome, also known as “sympathetic pregnancy,” writes Quinton Mayo of NBC Sports Washington. Beal’s partner has delivered two children in the past two years. “I gained about 12-15 pounds,” he said. “Coach Brooks used to make fun of me and say my uniform was fitting a little tighter, and not in a good way. I was up at 3, 4 o’clock in the morning eating ice cream when I shouldn’t have been eating ice cream. That’s all because momma was pregnant and I had the exact same symptoms. I was craving stuff that I never had the desire to eat before.”

Pacific Notes: Burks, Leonard, Howard, Giles

Alec Burks doesn’t regret joining the Warriors despite their injury woes, Anthony Slater of The Athletic reports. He originally committed to the Thunder in free agency, then shifted gears when their two stars were traded. Burks signed a one-year deal with Golden State.

“I committed here for other reasons besides playing with those great players. I like the culture. I like (Warriors head coach) Steve (Kerr),” he said. “I like (GM) Bob (Myers). That’s what sold me at first. And I like the people right here that’s playing, that’s healthy. We’ll eventually get those guys back. … I’m glad where I’m at. I’m proud I made a good decision.”

We have more from the Pacific Division:

  • Clippers superstar Kawhi Leonard was blindsided by the league revealing the nature of his knee injury while fining the team $50K for making conflicting statements about his health, Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN relays. According to the league statement, Leonard is dealing with a patella tendon issue in his left knee. “I mean it was shocking, but it doesn’t matter to me,” he said. “I’m not a guy that reads the media anyway. We’re going to manage it the best way we can to keep me healthy and that’s the most important thing, me being healthy moving forward.”
  • The way the Clippers handled the Leonard load management controversy may have been sloppy but it showed that the organization has his back, Jovan Buha and Sam Amick of The Athletic opine. The Clippers are trying to follow the Raptors’ blueprint to success, which includes giving Leonard a number of nights off.
  • Dwight Howard has emerged a legitimate candidate for the Sixth Man award, Bryan Kalbrosky of Hoops Hype writes. Not only has Howard been a force with the Lakers’ second unit, he’s also blended surprisingly well with LeBron James and Anthony Davis, according to statistical measures, Kalbrosky adds. Howard, working on a non-guaranteed contract, is averaging 6.7 PPG, 7.9 RPG and 2.1 BPG in 21.7 MPG.
  • Kings center Harry Giles was medically cleared to play just prior to the team’s game against the Hawks on Friday, Jason Anderson of the Sacramento Bee reports. Giles had been sidelined by left knee soreness. Giles, who will be an unrestricted free agent after the season since the team declined its 2020/21 option on him, scored four points in eight minutes during his season debut.

L.A. Notes: Howard, Kuzma, George, Leonard

Over his last few NBA stops, Lakers center Dwight Howard earned a reputation for rubbing teammates the wrong way, in part because of his “poorly-timed playfulness” that led some people in league circles to believe he lacked professionalism, writes Sam Amick of The Athletic. Since arriving in Los Angeles this summer though, Howard has been all business, with noticeable changes to his “dedication and demeanor.” As the veteran center tells Amick, that new approach has been deliberate.

“I’m the same person. I love to have fun, love to enjoy life. I just separate it,” Howard said. “There’s a time and a place for everything. I’m here for business. When I go home, that’s when I can be who I want to be. But right now, when I put on that jersey and when I come in this locker room, it’s about the Lakers. And that’s it.”

Howard, who made a strong early impression by studying game film with head coach Frank Vogel on the Lakers’ flight back from China last month, is also off to a strong start on the court. He has averaged 6.7 PPG, 7.9 RPG, and 2.1 BPG in a part-time role through seven games, with a league-high .786 FG%.

Here’s more on Los Angeles’ two teams:

  • After being held to 19 and 16 minutes in his first two games this season, Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma had a more lenient minutes limit on Tuesday against the Bulls, writes Eric Woodyard of ESPN.com. Although Kuzma only ended up playing 21 minutes, Vogel is prepared to increase that figure going forward. “To me, it’s not so much what his limitations are,” Vogel said before Tuesday’s game. “It’s really about rhythm and timing and conditioning, for me, in terms of what his minutes end up being. But he’s allowed to play 26 now.”
  • Paul George is scheduled to go through his first full-contact practice as a member of the Clippers on Saturday, per Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.com. A Wednesday report indicated that the team is hoping to have George make his season debut next week, either on November 13 in Houston or November 14 in New Orleans.
  • Jovan Buha and Sam Amick of The Athletic take a deep dive into the Clippers‘ load managing of Kawhi Leonard, exploring whether his nights off are precautionary or if he’s actually dealing with an injury. Sources tell The Athletic duo that there’s no definitive plan to have Leonard miss half of every single back-to-back set this season. The star forward’s rest schedule will be determined a few weeks at a time, and could be adjusted as the year goes on.

Lakers Notes: Howard, Davis, Kuzma

Years after a disappointing first tour of duty with the Lakers, Dwight Howard is back in Hollywood. While he’s no longer a superstar, Howard has excelled in his role off the bench, providing L.A. with solid defense and rebounding.

Unexpectedly, one of his biggest supporters is Kobe Bryant. The former teammates’ bad blood from their lone season together has been well documented from both sides. Bryant labeled Howard “soft” and the big man has said he hated the former NBA MVP “for years” for making that comment. However, watching from afar this time, Bryant is thrilled for Howard’s success.

“I’m happy for him because sometimes we don’t realize how much we love the game and miss the game until that window starts closing or its closed,” Bryant said to The Los Angeles Times’ Arash Markazi. “Then you’re like, ‘Oh damn, I really miss playing the game. I want another opportunity to show what I can do.’ Sometimes you don’t know if that opportunity will ever come again. For him, I really believe he’s appreciative of the opportunity and I think he’s going to make a hell of an impact because of the new appreciation he has for playing the game.”

Check out more Lakers notes below:

  • The acquisition of Anthony Davis has helped make the Lakers a legitimate Finals contender, but the All-Star is content doing less in Los Angeles so that both he and LeBron James can impact the game, Brett Dawson of The Athletic writes.
  • There has been a lot of chatter about Davis and whether or not he’s more effective playing the power forward or center positions. Kyle Goon of the Orange County Register opines that L.A.’s best lineup may include Davis at center and that the return of Kyle Kuzma only further accentuates that point.
  • Speaking of Kuzma, the forward made his season debut on Friday night, totaling nine points and three rebounds in nearly 19 minutes. Head coach Frank Vogel has noted that the team will patient with Kuzma as he reintegrates with the team. “It’ll be a little bit of a learning curve for him, but hopefully it doesn’t take too long,” Vogel said.

Vogel: Lakers Haven’t Ruled Out Cousins Returning

Having suffered a torn ACL in August, veteran center DeMarcus Cousins is considered likely to miss the entire 2019/20 season. In fact, the Lakers were granted a disabled player exception after it was determined that the big man is substantially more likely than not to be sidelined through June 15, 2020.

However, according to head coach Frank Vogel, the Lakers haven’t ruled out the possibility that Cousins – who is on a one-year contract – might be able to suit up for the club during a hypothetical playoff run, as ESPN’s Dave McMenamin details.

“We’ve not closed the door on that,” Vogel said. “We’ll just — we’re going to be a wait and see. With these injuries that are long rehabs, you have to see and take it kind of month to month and see where he’s at. But we’ve not closed the door on a possible return for him.”

The fact that the Lakers received a disabled player exception as a result of Cousins’ injury won’t impact his ability to return this season. Whether or not the club uses the DPE by the March 10 deadline, Cousins would still be eligible to return later in the season. The Lakers would lose the DPE if Cousins returns prior to March 10 and it has yet to be used, but that scenario is extremely unlikely.

In fact, it’s hard to imagine Cousins returning at all this season, even if the Lakers win a postseason series or two. As Warriors coach Steve Kerr recently pointed out when he was discussing Klay Thompson‘s ACL tear, those injuries typically call for at least an 11-month recovery timeline. Having endured several major leg injuries in recent years, Cousins might be wise to play it safe with his latest health issue and simply aim to be ready for the 2020/21 season.

In the wake of Cousins’ injury, the Lakers signed Dwight Howard to replace him in the frontcourt, and based on how Howard has looked to start the year, the team may have another reason to play it safe with Cousins. As Bill Oram of The Athletic writes, Howard is coming off a 16-point, 10-rebound, four-block performance against the Hornets, with his return to Los Angeles emerging early as one of the NBA’s most enjoyable fall storylines.

The Lakers will continue to monitor Cousins over the course of the season. If there’s pessimism in January or February about his ability to realistically contribute in the spring, he could be used as a salary-matching piece in a trade or released to open up a roster spot for a player on the buyout market.

Southeast Notes: Johnson, Turner, Jones, Wizards

James Johnson‘s agent Mark Bartelstein said his client has been absent from the Heat’s training camp because of his weight rather than his conditioning, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reports.

Johnson hasn’t been allowed to participate in camp until he reaches that weight goal set by Heat president Pat Riley. Bartelstein said Johnson passed the team’s conditioning test and will return to the team “shortly,” Jackson adds. Johnson has a $15.3MM salary this season with a $16MM player option next season.

We have more from the Southeast Division:

  • Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce wants to take advantage Evan Turner‘s versatility, Kevin Chouinard of the team’s website tweets. Turner will serve as the backup point guard and will also be employed as a small-ball power forward along with playing the wing. Turner was acquired from the Blazers for Kent Bazemore.
  • Forward Jemerrio Jones is trying to gain a role with the Wizards via his rebounding and hustle, as Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington details.  Jones, who played six games with the Lakers last season as a rookie, has a $1,416,852 salary, but less than $200K is guaranteed. “I go hard in the paint,” he said. “[Fans] are going to like the hustle in me. You gotta pay people to play hard now, but it’s in me.” Jones was acquired in the three-team blockbuster that brought Anthony Davis to Los Angeles.
  • Thomas Bryant inspires his other young Wizards teammates to exceed expectations, Candace Buckner of the Washington Post writes. Bryant, who was cut loose by the Lakers, earned a three-year, $25MM contract after replacing injured Dwight Howard as the starting center last season. “The opportunity that he got, making the best of getting cut, it’s incredible for me to observe,” second-year center Moritz Wagner said. “I’m very happy to do this with him together.”

Lakers Notes: Howard, McGee, PGs, Kuzma

When Dwight Howard signed with the Lakers in August, he pledged to come to camp with an adjusted mindset. After pushing for increased touches and a prominent role during his previous stops, Howard said he had been humbled by his recent struggles and would come to Los Angeles ready and willing to play whatever role was asked of him.

While it’s still early, it sounds like Howard has delivered on that promise so far. As Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com writes, head coach Frank Vogel praised the three-time Defensive Player of the Year this week as the Lakers went through their first few days of training camp.

“Dwight Howard has been all business since he came in this time around,” Vogel said. “We’re asking our whole group to have a seriousness about ourselves. He’s been an all-business type of guy. It’s really helped us to be focused and working on the task at hand.”

Howard is on a non-guaranteed contract, but the Lakers only have 14 players with guaranteed salaries, so the big man is the top candidate to slide into the club’s 15th and final roster spot to start the season.  Based on his performance so far in camp, there’s no reason to think that he won’t claim and hang onto that final roster spot.

“Dwight has it on his mind that he wants to help this team win,” teammate Anthony Davis said. “And whatever that entails, he’s going to do it.”

Here’s more on the Lakers:

  • Howard isn’t the only veteran Lakers center who has made a good impression so far in camp. According to McMenamin, Vogel also lauded the work of JaVale McGee, who re-signed with the club in July. “JaVale’s performing at a really high level,” the head coach said.
  • It’s not yet clear who will start at point guard for the Lakers, as Rajon Rondo and Avery Bradley offer different skill sets and both saw time with the first team early in camp, per Mike Trudell of Lakers.com. As Trudell notes, Bradley’s ability to play off the ball could make him a good fit next to LeBron James, though the team could turn to Rondo if it wants more play-making on the court.
  • Of course, Rondo and Bradley won’t be the only players competing for minutes at the point guard spot. Kyle Goon of The Orange County Register takes a closer look at Alex Caruso, who will be pushing for a regular rotation role after re-signing with the Lakers in the offseason.
  • Kyle Kuzma is still a year away from being able to sign a rookie scale extension, but he has inked another long-term deal that will secure him a nice payday. According to Nick DePaula of ESPN.com, Kuzma signed a five-year footwear and apparel endorsement contract with Puma which is expected to be worth north of $20MM.

Pacific Notes: Ballmer, Ariza, Caruso, Howard

Clippers owner Steve Ballmer invested $100MM in the city of Inglewood, California this week, according to Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.com.

The investment was created as part of the city’s new arena development agreement, with the Clippers labeling it as the largest funding commitment for community programs related to a sports or entertainment venue in California.

“We’re close to a residential neighborhood and we are being very mindful,” Ballmer told ESPN in July about building a potential arena in Inglewood. “Investing well into the community, being a good citizen of the community. No homes need to get moved but we need to be a good neighbor.”

Ballmer’s proposal for a new Clippers arena, according to Youngmisuk, would include a corporate headquarters, team training facility, sports medicine clinic and much more.

“I want it to be beautiful,” Ballmer said. “But I want it to be about basketball. I want it to be comfortable. But I want it to be about basketball.”

There’s more today out of the Pacific Division:

  • James Ham of NBC Sports Sacramento examines how Trevor Ariza could fit in a crowded Kings rotation this season. Ariza, a veteran 3-and-D forward, signed a two-year, $25MM deal to join the Kings in free agency this past summer.
  • Mike Trudell of Lakers.com discusses several Lakers-related items in his mailbag, including the possibility of Alex Caruso starting at point guard this season. Caruso was better than Rajon Rondo while playing alongside LeBron James last season, though head coach Frank Vogel also has the option of testing Quinn Cook at starting point guard in training camp.
  • Kevin Pelton of ESPN.com examines whether former All-Star Dwight Howard could help solve the Lakers‘ depth issues at the center position. Howard is expected to fill in the role that injured center DeMarcus Cousins was supposed to fill before tearing his ACL, likely playing back-up center behind JaVale McGee to start the season and controlling the team’s interior presence on defense.

Frank Vogel Ready To Coach LeBron, AD

Frank Vogel talks about the excitement of coaching LeBron James and Anthony Davis, the opportunity that Dwight Howard has to revive his career and the wide open Western Conference playoff race in a lengthy interview with Steve Aschburner of NBA.com.

Few coaches going into a new situation have ever faced as much pressure to win right away as Vogel will. The trade that brought Davis from New Orleans has pushed the Lakers into a favorite’s role, and the sense of urgency for James has grown after missing the playoffs last year.

Vogel is also entering a situation where he clearly wasn’t the first choice for the job. He was only hired after negotiations with Tyronn Lue collapsed, and he was asked to bring along former NBA coaches Jason Kidd and Lionel Hollins as assistants. Still, he’s eager for the chance to mentor what could be a historically great duo in James and Davis.

“Talent-wise, they’re the two best players I’ll ever have had the opportunity to coach,” Vogel said. “That brings a lot of fun, a lot of excitement to what we’re able to do on the court. It brings a lot of challenges too. You have to make sure you’re managing them the right way and putting them in the right positions to feel good about their roles and what’s happening around them. There are challenges involved with that. So I’m looking forward to how that all is going to play out.”

Vogel touches on several other subjects, including:

Howard’s return to L.A.:

“I think he’s excited about this opportunity with the Lakers. It’s very different from the first time he came through. Then, he was a mega-star coming in with two other mega-stars [Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash]. This time around, he’s had a few teams where they haven’t had great success. And he’s at a different point, age-wise, in his career. So he’s excited just to be part of something, in any way he can help. He knows it’s going to be more of a role player type of role.”

Whether Davis will see more time at power forward or center:

“To me, he’s effective in both positions. But I don’t think it’s wise when your mindset is to be at your best going into the playoffs, to have him banging with centers for 82 games full-time. Does that mean he’s never going to do it in the regular season? No, of course he’s going to play some center in the regular season. But we want to make sure we keep the end goal in sight and getting him to April, for that playoff run, the right way.”

The rivalry with the Clippers:

“They have a terrific team and a terrific coach, and their front office is doing really well. But we can’t focus on their location. We still have to focus on ourselves and the task at hand. Not just worry about what’s happening crosstown. There are a lot of teams capable of winning the West, so we’ll be focused on our process.”