David Zalubowski/Associated Press
Howard explained his decision while also noting he will donate the rest of his game checks this season to his Breathe Again campaign, which he is relaunching:
Lakers head coach Frank Vogel told reporters last week that Howard was still on the fence about his availability.
“We’ve been in communication with Dwight the whole way with supportive phone calls and text messages,” Vogel said, per ESPN’s Dave McMenamin. “We don’t know what the level of participation is going to be yet. He wants to play. We’re hopeful that he’s able to join us.”
McMenamin noted Howard is caring for his six-year-old son, whose mother died in March.
The eight-time All-Star had also expressed to Charania the importance he felt about continuing to keep the focus on the ongoing protests against police brutality, systemic racism and social inequality:
Shams Charania @ShamsCharania
Lakers’ Dwight Howard in statement to @TheAthleticNBA @Stadium: “Our main objective is to raise awareness and gain transparency…Many of our fellow players are afraid to voice their concerns and are continuing to follow along with what they believe they have to.” https://t.co/dfTlSPBwpV
The Lakers will be without Avery Bradley, who opted out over concerns about the health of his family were he to play.
Losing Howard would have been another tough blow for Los Angeles since the team’s available options to replace him at center would have been limited.
The 34-year-old has been great in a limited role this season. Prior to the NBA suspending play, he was averaging 7.5 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.2 blocks in 19.2 minutes per game. His rim protection and rebounding have helped the Lakers to post the league’s third-best defensive rating (105.5), per NBA.com.
Having Howard in the paint will aid L.A. in its quest for a 17th title.