NBA Coronavirus Outbreak: Lakers Say That Howard Will Still Play
Lakers believe that Howard will be with team in season resumption
Despite Dwight Howard’s comments against the NBA’s plan to resume the current season, the Los Angeles Lakers still believe that their back-up big man will be with them in the Orlando bubble.
Tania Ganguli and Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times jointly reported on this matter, although it is reiterated that the team still does not have a clear sight on the possibility that veteran defensive ace Avery Bradley will also play. Bradley also commented against the resumption, so the Western Conference frontrunners could be without their combo guard in Orlando.
“In the last week, Lakers teammates Avery Bradley and Dwight Howard have publicly expressed concerns about resuming the NBA season amid nationwide protests over racism and police brutality against Black people. But within the organization, as within the league as a whole, that opinion isn’t of the majority.
There is a belief around the organization that Howard plans to play, while Bradley’s plans are less clear, according to people with knowledge of the situation.”
The players’ mixed responses regarding the season resumption have been the headlines for much of the past week. Reports have it that Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving led a group of players who have concerns against the resumption, and Howard and Bradley are part of that band.
As for the other Lakers’ key cogs, LeBron James and Danny Green made remarks on how playing in Orlando could provide them a bigger platform to push through their advocacy. James emphasized that playing basketball will not get in the way of his fight against social inequality issues. Green agreed with James, and said that the massive exposure they will get from the social media and from television should further boost their advocacy.
In an interview with Caron Butler on the league’s official Twitter account, Green said that the Lakers need both Howard and Bradley to have a successful championship run in the playoffs. The Lakers are leading in the West, and they have a solid chance at going after another championship ring with James and Anthony Davis at the helm.
“I think it’s just important that we’re together. Obviously we’re going to need Avery Bradley, we’re going to need Dwight Howard to be playing for us to have a chance. But I think it’s important that we stay healthy, and not just our team but the league. Everybody that’s in the league has to have a unified front on what we’re going to do and speak with one voice. But for our team individually, as a group, Lakers, we need to be together, we need to be on the same page, we’ve got to stay healthy. I think we have some professional guys that are on top of it and actually staying in shape during this time, so I think we’ll be a little ahead of the curve with that.”
Even with influential players like Irving, Howard and Bradley lobbying for a sit-out, the league should still be able to balance out both sides. Sitting out the rest of the season would have implications not just on the players’ salaries this year, but also on their long-term finances.
More than that, it’s not just the social injustice issues that players want to prioritize. The global pandemic is still around us, and there’s this concern that players and coaches could contract the coronavirus. The league has already put up strict safety precautions within the Orlando bubble, although they also made it a point that they will not punish players who will opt to sit out the season resumption due to health concerns.
Should Howard or Bradley or any Lakers player deem it necessary to sit out the season resumption, the team can always sign a replacement player. Rumors have it that DeMarcus Cousins could be healthy enough to return to the court, and the Lakers are expected to be the frontrunners should a roster spot comes up available.
Still, the intangibles that Howard and Bradley bring to the table could be hard to replace. Bradley has been a regular starter for head coach Frank Vogel, while Howard’s 19.2 minutes of efficient work per contest has been quite defensive anchor for the team’s second unit.
Ariza decides to sit out the rest of the season
The Portland Trail Blazers will go to Orlando missing one solid veteran presence as Trevor Ariza has decided to sit out the rest of the season. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the 34-year old forward will commit his time to the one-month visitation window he has with his child.
“Portland Trail Blazers forward Trevor Ariza is opting out of participating in the NBA's Orlando restart of the season, committing instead to a one-month visitation window with his young son, sources told ESPN.
Ariza, a starter, has been involved in a custody case over his 12-year-old son, and the mother's decision to grant a court-ordered, one-month visitation period during the league's quarantine of teams in Orlando, Florida, led Ariza to choose his parenting responsibilities over competing with the Blazers in the 22-team restart, sources said.”
Ariza, who will be turning 35 at the end of this month, signed a two-year, $25 million contract with the Sacramento Kings last summer. But the Kings struggled to rack up wins, and eventually traded the veteran defender to the Blazers. In the 21 games that Ariza played for Portland, he has started every night.
The former Los Angeles Lakers champ is norming 11.0 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.6 steals for the Blazers while logging in 33.4 minutes per contest. On top of that, Ariza is also doing it efficiently. He is shooting an overall 49% clip from the field, including a stellar 40% from the three-point line.
The veteran 3-and-D stalwart has become the Blazers’ primary defensive ace, and his absence should be a huge disadvantage for the team. Perimeter defense has been a weakness for the Blazers this season, the main reason why they traded Kent Bazemore, Anthony Tolliver and multiple future second-round draft picks for Ariza.
Having said that, the Blazers still have time to scourge the free agency market for a proven perimeter defender to fill in for Ariza’s absence. In light of some good news, Wojnarowski also mentioned that Zach Collins and Jusuf Nurkic will rejoin the squad in time for the season resumption. Nurkic has been out for a year now, while Collins sustained an injury in the early part of the current season.
“The Blazers are 29-37, one of three teams within 3.5 games of eighth-seeded Memphis in the Western Conference. Teams will play eight seeding games in Orlando, and the team with the best record outside the top eight in each conference that lands within four games of the final playoff spot will compete in a play-in tournament.
Portland is expected to medically clear two key 7-footers -- Zach Collins and Jusuf Nurkic -- to rejoin the team after injuries kept both out for extended periods.”
With Ariza gone, the Blazers will rely on their stars Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, as well as the scoring punch that Carmelo Anthony provides. There was a cloud of uncertainty surrounding Lillard’s plan to play in Orlando last month, as he told Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports that he won’t risk participating in the bubble if they “don’t have a true opportunity to get into the playoffs.”
"If we come back and they're just like, 'We're adding a few games to finish the regular season,' and they're throwing us out there for meaningless games and we don't have a true opportunity to get into the playoffs, I'm going to be with my team because I'm a part of the team. But I'm not going to be participating. I'm telling you that right now. And you can put that in there.
If we come back and I don't have an opportunity to make the playoffs, I will show up to work, I'll be at practice and I'll be with my team. I'm going to do all that and then I'm going to be sitting right on that bench during the games. If they come back and say it's something like a tournament, play-in style, between the No. 7 and No. 12 seeds, if we're playing for playoff spots, then I think that's perfect."
It is also revealed that the Blazers were the only team to vote against the NBA’s season resumption plans.