Chris Paul, after posing for pictures with his white Warriors No. 3 jersey in Las Vegas, didn’t shy away from the bizarreness of his new reality, twice saying, “I never thought I’d see the day.”
A wild Warriors spotlight could grow bigger and brighter with another tantalizing addition. The Warriors are expected to meet early this week with Dwight Howard and work out the three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year as another veteran free agent the franchise is considering for one of their final two open roster spots.
The Athletic’s Shams Charania was first to report the news Friday, citing multiple league sources.
Meetings will be even more important than the product Howard displays on the court. Will the 37-year-old former star show a willingness to put his past accolades to the side? His mindset has to be selfless, and he can’t let his Hall of Fame credentials get in the way. Would he be a locker-room distraction and cause chaos for a team that already is facing chemistry questions after last season’s issues? Bringing in Paul already was seen as a risk here, and Howard certainly would be initially seen as one from the outside as well.
Howard himself has shown interest in joining the Warriors in years past, and as recently as last year. On an episode of “Club Shay Shay” a little under a year ago, Howard explained to Shannon Sharpe why he would be a perfect fit for Golden State as the team still was figuring out the future of center James Wiseman.
“Oh man, that’s perfect,” Howard said. “I’ve been a warrior my whole life. I started out at my school as a Warrior. They need a big. I know they have Kevon Looney and I know they have the young boy Wiseman. But I’m Dwight Howard. Wiseman can learn so much from me, because he’s headed in that direction of being a great young big man.
“Even in that situation, playing with all shooters like that – Steph [Curry], the way he gets open with me setting screens, he’s going to get more wide open. Klay [Thompson] is the same way. Draymond [Green] in the pick and roll with me and him. Me being able to teach Wiseman how to play defense, how to block shots – I see him as someone who’s similar to David Robinson in his size and his athleticism. There’s a lot of things I can really teach him.”
Golden State Warriors
Wiseman no longer is part of the Warriors after being dealt to the Detroit Pistons at last season’s trade deadline. The Warriors did draft a big man in Trayce Jackson-Davis this past June, and if Howard shows a willingness to mentor him and someone like Jonathan Kuminga, it only will add to his case of deserving another chance in the NBA.
As recently as August, however, Howard explained his doubts when asked if he’s the missing link to the Warriors on an episode of the “My Expert Opinion Show."
“I can see that, but I don’t think they want my style of center,” Howard said. “Not that I can’t play or do what is needed, but why would they go get a Dwight Howard when they can go get a young player that maybe has no name, that’s not a risk?
“No off-the-court issues and no drama that comes with Dwight Howard, or the name or anything. Why wouldn’t they just get somebody where there’s no pressure? … I’m just looking at both sides of it. I know who I am, I know my talent. But from their business side of it, why would they do that on their end?”
The main part of Howard’s rebuttal was simply trying to play both sides. His comments also came before the Warriors showed true interest, and the franchise appears to be recognizing the need for another veteran center.
But back to the importance of dissecting where Howard stands mentally following a season in Taiwan. Charania reported meetings will be held with Warriors “decision makers, coaches and players.” Everybody has to be on the same page and feel Howard’s heart is solely in winning another championship. He didn’t co-exist with Kobe Bryant on the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2012-13 NBA season, when Howard still was in his prime at 27 years old.
As recently as the Lakers’ 2020 championship in the Orlando bubble, Howard showed he can make the necessary sacrifices alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis to bring his team a ring. Howard averaged 18.9 minutes that season and still was able to put up 7.3 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game. He last played in the NBA in the 2021-22 season, his third stint as a Laker, and averaged 6.2 points and 5.9 rebounds over 16.2 minutes per game. Those were all career lows and likely would be even lower as a Warrior, but that’s beside the point.
Though the Warriors transcended small-ball basketball, size remains a necessity. The Warriors have lacked it, and it might have finally caught up to them. Green (6-foot-6) is going to be 34 years old in March and is entering his 12th NBA season. Looney (6-foot-9) is sure to have set a goal for another 82-game season, and as commendable as that might be, he needs a breather. Looney has earned that.
Dario Šarić (6-foot-10) is seen as a perfect Warriors fit for his ability to be a stretch big, and Jackson-Davis (6-foot-9) is expected to be ahead of past draft picks as a rookie who will turn 24 years old in February. But there always is a learning curve in coach Steve Kerr’s system.
Kerr as Team USA’s head coach in the 2023 FIBA World Cup saw firsthand how Howard can help the Warriors, even at this stage in his career. Team USA lost three of its final four games, beating Italy and losing to Lithuania, Germany and Canada. They were outrebounded 113-98 in their three losses and outrebounded Italy 55-31 in their lone win. The Americans trailed Montenegro and won by 12, a game in which they were outrebounded 49-31.
The Warriors aren’t going to be contenders again by going big. What they can do by getting bigger is survive and give themselves better chances at contending in a conference occupied by Nikola Jokić. Someone who can come in for a handful of minutes against a handful of teams in a handful situations and be physical in the paint, grab rebounds, commit some hard fouls and be an occasional lob threat sure feels like someone who is needed by Golden State right now.
In all likelihood, the Warriors’ 14th roster spot will go to someone who checks the above boxes, or whose most valuable trait is character and chemistry. It’s safe to assume Howard can fulfill part of that equation. Can he do the same for the second half?