Why the Dwight Howard signing is good news for the Portland Trail Blazers

SAN ANTONIO, TX - APRIL 21: Dwight Howard #12 of the Los Angeles Lakers (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
SAN ANTONIO, TX - APRIL 21: Dwight Howard #12 of the Los Angeles Lakers (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) /

A questionable decision to bring Dwight Howard back on board with the Lakers likely has the Portland Trail Blazers feeling pretty good about their chances next year.

Although injury is never something to be celebrated, the Portland Trail Blazers have benefited from the blow dealt to the Los Angeles Lakers’ starting lineup earlier this week. After signing with Los Angeles and showing promise a few outings after losing a lot of weight, DeMarcus Cousins has suffered another devastating injury in the form of a torn left ACL.

Cousins was expected to play a big role for the Lakers next season. A newly developed shot and agility after losing so much weight was going to nicely complement his already polished low post game next to LeBron James and co. in Los Angeles.

To mend the hole left in the rotation, the Lakers were forced to scrape the bottom of the barrel for potential replacements. Joakim Noah looked like an interesting option. Mo Speights was also rumored to come in for a workout. Instead, the Lakers went the route of signing the talented  but controversial Dwight Howard.

As you may recall, the isn’t the first time Howard will be suiting up in purple and gold. Back in 2012, Howard refused to sign an extension with the Orlando Magic and strong-armed his way into a trade to Los Angeles, where he would join Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Steve Nash and Metta World Peace and embrace the era of super teams. Howard would average 17.1 points, 12.4 rebounds (leading the league) and 2.4 blocks per game that year.

But as you may also remember, everything wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows in the typically fair-weathered city of LA. Kobe took an issue with Howard’s work ethic and perceived weak mentality. A player as talented as Dwight — who had grown used to always being the best player on whatever team he was on throughout his life — simply wasn’t accustomed to being pushed by his peers.

Refusing to adapt and put the team first led Dwight down a path where even a team as talented as that 2013 Lakers squad could only muster 45 wins and a swift first-round exit in the playoffs. This has unfortunately to be the prime example of a story that encompasses Howard’s whole career, even following him to Houston where he would infamously clash with his former teammate.

Now, imagine a headcase like that tossed in with a roster that consists of players with less-than-stellar locker room reputations like LeBron, Anthony Davis, JaVale McGee and Rajon Rondo. Couple that with the fact that six players on the roster have three or less years of experience in the NBA, this locker room is clearly devoid of enough stable veteran talent to right the ship when things get shaky.

And where Howard goes, a storm always follows.

To be fair, his recent comments seem to indicate Howard will at least attempt to become a cohesive unit as a small part of the bigger picture for the first time in his career. He recently sat down with Shams Charania of the Athletic to discuss this shift in mindset.

"“I don’t have an ego — it’s dead. It had to die for me to be who I am. Sometimes when you want to become who you want to be, you have to die within yourself. Once you learn that you have to give up yourself for the team, that’s when things flourish… I thought I was focused. I was always in the gym, working. But was I really focused? Was I really locked in on what I was doing in life?”"

But as we all saw with the recent Carmelo Anthony controversy, talk is cheap. It’s much harder to live up to your word when you’re caught in the midst of a grueling NBA season, especially when you play in a city with as many outside distractions as Los Angeles.

Before Boogie went down, the Lakers were looking forward to entering the season with two of the best players in the entire NBA and a very strong supporting cast. Dwight could likely introduce a little bit of chaos in the Lakers locker room that’s enough to destabilize the Lakers’ locker room for the second year in a row.

The Portland Trail Blazers could watch from afar and be amused as one of their biggest rivals and potential postseason opponent rips itself apart from the inside. Even if worst comes to worst and the Lakers cut Howard, he could be the match that ignites the flame from within.

Maybe he won’t be. Maybe he’s got it all figured out now. Maybe you can teach an old dog new tricks. But that’s a lot of “maybes”.

Next. Looking back and grading the Blazers' 2017 NBA Draft. dark

Until then Dwight, we’ll believe it when we see it.