Howard has been pleas­ant sur­prise in L.A.

Antelope Valley Press - - SPORTS - Brian Golden Val­ley Press Staff Writer [email protected]­PRESS.COM

You didn’t see it on the trans­ac­tion wire. But it was one of the shrewdest moves the Lak­ers have made in this sea­son of resur­gence.

Dwight Howard’s con­tract was guar­an­teed for the rest of the sea­son Tues­day.

It’s the best $2.6 mil­lion the Lak­ers have spent in a long time.

The out­look was so pe­jo­ra­tive when Howard re­turned to the Lak­ers last sum­mer, Tues­day’s date was ex­pected to be a dis­missal.

The last four years, Howard played for four dif­fer­ent teams.

Mostly poorly.

Even worse, he de­vel­oped a rep­u­ta­tion as a club­house lawyer.

Or so the scout­ing re­port said.

That Dwight Howard must have gone back­door, be­cause he has not been seen this sea­son.

In­stead, Howard has shot a ca­reer-high 73 per­cent from the floor.

If he played the min­utes other top 10 re­bound­ers did, he would rank sev­enth over­all in the NBA.

Some­one cal­cu­lated that op­pos­ing shoot­ing per­cent­ages drop 20 points when he’s on the floor.

When Howard and the Lak­ers’ sec­ond unit come on the floor, more times than not they main­tain, and of­ten in­crease, the lead LeBron James and An­thony Davis have en­trusted to them.

On the bench, Howard is such an an­i­mated cheer­leader, he of­ten up­stages the

Laker Girls.

“He’s been a great team­mate,” said Lak­ers coach Frank Vogel, the only big­ger Lak­ers sur­prise this sea­son than Howard.

In his first go-round with the Lak­ers, Howard was so anx­ious to please Kobe Bryant, he came back be­fore he was com­pletely healed from off­sea­son back surgery.

A short­ness of health was in­ter­preted to be a short­ness of char­ac­ter. Kobe rode D-12, HARD. It was meant to toughen him men­tally, to make the break­through to su­per­star­dom of all those re­tired big men’s num­bers high in the Sta­ples Cen­ter rafters.

In­stead, Howard felt picked on.

It was a cross be­tween Zen and a Vul­can mind scan.

Howard fled town, leav­ing be­hind the bag­gage of a ma­lin­gerer’s rep­u­ta­tion.

Now he’s back, and so is his dream to add an­other gold ban­ner up there with those big men greats.

His tim­ing is per­fect this time.

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