Mike D’Antoni experienced a difficult season with Dwight Howard as the coach of the Lakers in 2012-13 as Los Angeles limped to the No. 7 seed in the Western Conference before getting swept by the Spurs in the first round. D’Antoni’s lone campaign with Howard was a dramatic one, filled with inconsistent play, locker room spats and a general malaise. It’s been a different story in Howard’s second stint with the Lakers.
Howard has thrived in a bench role with the Lakers this season, entering Saturday night, ranking No. 6 in the NBA in defensive rating and block percentage. Once known as one of the league’s biggest personalities, Howard has thrived in a smaller role with Los Angeles, reviving his career in the process. D’Antoni isn’t surprised.
“Dwight is a very talented basketball player. If he’s happy and wants to [come off the bench], which obviously he does, then no reason he wouldn’t be successful,” D’Antoni told the media at the Toyota Center in Houston. “When everything is right with a person, their talent comes through.”
Howard will have extra responsibility in Los Angeles’ rotation on Saturday night as Anthony Davis misses his fifth straight game due to a gluteus maximus contusion.
Saturday’s contest also marks a return to Houston for Howard. The eight-time All-Star played three seasons with the Rockets from 2014-16, reaching the playoffs in all three seasons. Howard averaged 26 points and 13.7 rebounds per game in the 2014 playoffs.
Howard the the Lakers have dominated the West in 2019-20, entering Saturday night atop the conference at 33–8. Houston is 26–14 after back-to-back losses.
Tip-off from the Toyota Center is slated for 7:30 p.m. CT.