The Lakers are casting about for replacements for DeMarcus Cousins after the big man shredded his ACL in a pickup game in Las Vegas last week. The pickings are slim. Joakim Noah is available! Only slightly better than that experiment in re-animation is this: the Lakers have requested permission from the Memphis Grizzlies to speak with the one and only Dwight Howard.
To the surprise of actually no one, the Grizzlies were reportedly all too happy to grant the Lakers permission to talk to a player they have no real interest in retaining. Ramona Shelburne was quick to temper this development with a report that describes the Lakers’ interest as essentially exploratory, with no particular interest in Dwight, specifically. That shouldn’t matter much—for however washed-up and enfeebled Howard might be these days, there’s no one out there who makes much more sense, so long as the team is determined to use something like a traditional center. Once you get past Dwight and Noah, it’s not long before your search takes you to Amir Johnson and Tyler Zeller and Salah Mejri, and that is nowhere.
Howard bombed out with the Wizards last season after signing an inexplicable one-plus-one contract (a guaranteed year plus a player option year) following a really dispiriting season of empty production in Charlotte. He was never healthy in Washington. The closest he came to healthy was an ambling, stiff, floor-bound, permanently grimacing nine total games of production, all of them before the end of November. His rebounding and scoring were reasonable, but his rim protection numbers were alarming—a career-low 0.6 blocks per 36 minutes—and the Wizards, already a flaming disaster, were a hysterical 15.3 points per hundred possessions worse with him on the floor during his brief spell of “good” health. On the plus side, it’s very likely he cost Ernie Grunfeld his job.
That doesn’t mean it couldn’t work out in Los Angeles. Howard—like literally every free agent player in the world—is reportedly in tremendous shape this summer, and he’d be playing with by far the best teammates he’s had in four years. He says he wants to be some lucky team’s Draymond Green. It could be the Lakers! Imagine! Plus, remember, the last time the Lakers made the playoffs, their center was one Dwight Howard. A good omen! God, please let this happen.