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Dwight Howard to Los Angeles? Lakers request permission to meet with ex-Wizard

Dwight Howard to Los Angeles? Lakers request permission to meet with ex-Wizard

No, this isn't 2012. Yes, the Lakers are interested in Dwight Howard.

The Lakers are scrambling to find a replacement at center after newly acquired big man DeMarcus Cousins suffered a torn ACL in a pickup basketball game last week.

The Wizards traded Howard to the Memphis Grizzlies last month for veteran wing CJ Miles, but he's expected to be released. 

Howard is no stranger to L.A., as he spent the 2012-2013 season with the Lakers after a blockbuster four-team deal shipped him out of Orlando. The Lakers went 45-37 that year, and Howard signed with the Houston Rockets the following offseason. 

Although he was named an All-Star in 2012, Howard's stats took a notable hit. He averaged 17.1 points on 57.8 percent shooting while grabbing 12.4 rebounds. During his last season in Orlando he averaged 20.6 points on 57.3 percent shooting, while grabbing 14.5 boards. It was the first time Howard hadn't averaged at least 20+ points per game since the 2009 season.

Howard attributed a lackluster season with the Lakers to "injury," which can also be said about his time in Washington. Howard only played nine games with the Wizards due to a lingering lower-back injury, but his name stayed out of headlines. 

A healthy Howard is still a viable option down low. In 2017 Howard started 81 games for the Charlotte Hornets while averaging 16.6 points, 12.5 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks. However, the key word is healthy. 

When Howard signed with Washington last year he presented this soliloquy at his introductory press conference:

"I learned Magic for eight years. Traveled to La-La Land. Learned how to work with Rockets. I went and learned to fly with some Hawks. Got stung by the Hornets — just a joke. But through all of that, it’s taught me how to be a Wizard.”

If Howard and the Lakers do agree to a deal, the real question is: What will he say at the next press conference?

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Wizards new GM Tommy Sheppard called Dwight Howard trade 'quickest trade I've ever done'

Wizards new GM Tommy Sheppard called Dwight Howard trade 'quickest trade I've ever done'

In early July, the Wizards dealt Dwight Howard to the Memphis Grizzlies in exchange for C.J. Miles. According to an interview with Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, new Wizards GM Tommy Sheppard didn't need much time to move on.

The Howard deal was "the quickest trade I've ever done in my life," Sheppard told Wojnarowski.

It was also a proving ground for Sheppard to show owner Ted Leonsis he could lead a new regime for the Wizards.

"I like [Sheppard's] dexterity to be able to deal with the existing NBA, but to also really look at it as a global enterprise," Leonsis noted.

Howard was signed to the Wizards in 2018 to a two-year, $11 million free-agent deal, and immediately made a lasting impact, including jokes about how he learned to be a Wizard after a circuitous NBA career.

Trading him away was a signal that Sheppard was trying to reset of the Wizards culture.

But since then, Tommy Sheppard has had his interim tag removed to mark him as the new GM of the organization. 

Sheppard's moves before he was named GM included not only the Howard deal, but also leading the Wizards' draft night where they selected Rui Hachimura and Admiral Schofield, as well as signing Isaiah Thomas to a one-year deal.

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Dwight Howard trade a step toward resetting Wizards' culture

Dwight Howard trade a step toward resetting Wizards' culture

The Wizards are attempting to change the culture of their organization and few things symbolize that better these days than trading Dwight Howard.

By now, he is used to it. This is the third straight time a new front office architect has promptly traded Howard soon after taking over their post. It happened to him in Atlanta, then Charlotte and now Washington with Tommy Sheppard, who is currently running the Wizards with an interim tag.

The Wizards shipped Howard to the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday for veteran forward C.J. Miles. It was yet another move that signals the Wizards are undergoing a significant makeover, one that is showing all the signs of a franchise rebuild.

Howard could have helped them this upcoming season, at least in theory. They need rebounding and defense and those are his two best selling points. Even coming off a back injury, he could have been of use.

But now Howard exits after playing only nine games with the Wizards. They are tearing their roster down to the studs and Howard makes that process nearly complete.

The Wizards now have a team headlined by John Wall and Bradley Beal that is flush with young players and veterans on short-term contracts. They have financial flexibility moving forward and cheap players with upside.

The roster has been overhauled and it's notable that Sheppard remains in charge. Owner Ted Leonsis continues to let Sheppard guide the Wizards through the meat of the offseason while he is conducting a search that could lead to his replacement.

At this point, given all he has already done this offseason, it seems like Sheppard is either going to be given the job long-term, or he's being tasked with cleaning the slate for someone else to take over. The latter would be an unusual route to take.

Regardless, the direction of the franchise is becoming clear. The Wizards are favoring their long-term outlook over competing next season. They appear to see Wall's injury as reason to take a step back in hopes of taking two steps forward.

By getting Howard out of town, they will pave the way for Thomas Bryant to start. He re-signed this week on a three-year deal. At 21 years old, he is the future and will have a good opportunity to develop.

All of this, though, makes one piece of news from this week even more interesting. The Washington Post reported the Wizards have spoken to free agent DeMarcus Cousins. It was described as a casual conversation, but quickly ignited Wizards fans who have long called for the team to sign him.

Signing Cousins would flip much of what the Wizards have done in recent weeks on its head. He is someone who would make them better in the short-term, get in the way of Bryant's development and raise questions about their culture. Though he was by all accounts on good behavior in Golden State, he has a reputation for contributing to locker room dysfunction, fair or not.

The Wizards had been trying to move on from Howard for weeks. On Friday, they made it happen.

Their goals this offseason are becoming increasingly obvious. But will they stay the course?

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