Free agent profile: Josh Howard
Normally, this is the month when everyone analyzes, speculates on and frets over the moves NBA teams make to bolster their rosters. However, this isn't a normal time, with the NBA lockout and all. But that doesn't mean I'm going to stop analyzing the free-agent landscape. The times will come, although we don't know when, that the free agency process begins. So it doesn't hurt to get the homework done early.
This is the 13th post in a series of profiles analyzing a free agent and how he might fit with the Lakers.
Washington Wizards forward Josh Howard
Type of free agent: unrestricted
Positives: There is a hint of irony in the fact that the Washington Wizards acquired Howard in a trade from the Dallas Mavericks believing he'd be a valuable veteran presence for a young squad. He left Dallas with well-documented baggage, admitting to smoking marijuana in the off-season, getting arrested for street racing and later being cited for speeding, and criticizing the national anthem. Despite playing only 18 games last season for the Wizards while recovering from a torn anterior cruciate ligament, Washington valued Howard for his increased maturity and nurturing locker room presence. So should the Lakers acquire Howard, there should be little concern regarding his maturity.
There should also be little concern about Howard's injury -- he will likely have a prolonged NBA lockout to recover and could possibly return to be the player who proved instrumental in Dallas' run to the 2006 NBA Finals. The swingman averaged nearly 20 points per game in three of his last four seasons with the Mavs and could provide versatility that would make it easy for the Lakers to plug him into the lineup.
Negatives: As much as Howard has matured, the leadership qualities that made Washington value him may not be as much of a factor for the Lakers, given the two teams' disparities in age and talent. Also, Washington clung to the belief that he'd overcome his ACL tear from the 2009-2010 season, offering him a one-year, $3-million contract. But Bullets Forever's Mike Prada suspects that Howard rushed back too quickly, showing only glimpses of his former self. And the Lakers are well supplied with veterans. In fact, they need to go younger so they can invest for the future.
Verdict: The unfortunate reality is that the Lakers are strapped financially because of long-term contracts to their core players and an uncertain collective bargaining agreement. Picking up Howard would certainly serve as one of "tweaks" that could improve the Lakers' bench, but his presence wouldn't address the youth, speed and athleticism the team sorely needs.
-- Mark Medina
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Photo: Josh Howard played only 18 games with the Washington Wizards last season because of a torn ACL injury. Credit: Associated Press.