While the move wasn’t a surprise given recent developments — specifically the Lakers losing DeMarcus Cousins to a torn ACL and the Grizzlies having little interest in keeping Howard on the roster after acquiring his contract earlier this summer — it’s shocking to anyone who remembers how poorly Howard’s first stint with the Lakers went.
The former Defensive Player of the Year joined the Lakers in 2012 and was supposed to be part of a superteam with Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Steve Nash, who was also traded to Los Angeles that summer. Instead, head coach Mike Brown was fired after a 1-4 start, Howard and Bryant reportedly feuded in the locker room (which led to a staged photo that did nothing to stem the rumors) and Bryant tore his Achilles tendon with two games left in the season. As a final indignity, Howard was ejected from his final game as a Laker, a 103-82 loss to complete the San Antonio Spurs‘ four-game sweep in the first round.
Howard signed with the Houston Rockets in the summer of 2013, and when he and Bryant next met on the court, Bryant famously called Howard “soft,” something the center told Fox Sports 1 that he “hated” Bryant for at the time.
Yet, despite all that history, Howard will once again don a Lakers jersey as he tries to help the team win its first NBA title since 2010.
The reunion between Howard and the Lakers is far from the first in NBA history to come after a bad breakup.
A three-time MVP, Malone had led the 76ers to a title in 1983, but his 1985-86 season ended early due to a fractured orbital bone. Fearing Malone’s best days were behind him following a season in which he’d feuded with coach Matt Guokas, Philadelphia traded him to the Washington Bullets in exchange for All-Star big man Jeff Ruland and Clifford Robinson. “We’re far better equipped to deal at a championship level than 24 hours ago,” 76ers general manager Pat Williams said at the time. He was wrong. The 76ers fell from 54 wins to 45, as Ruland continued to struggle with injuries. Meanwhile, Malone proved he was far from done, making the All-Star team in each of the next three seasons.
After stints in Washington, Atlanta, and Milwaukee, Malone returned to Philadelphia for the 1993-94 season. Serving as a backup and mentor to rookie Shawn Bradley, Malone played 55 games in what would turn out to be his second-to-last NBA season. The 76ers posthumously retired Malone’s No. 2 jersey earlier this year.
The No. 1 overall pick in the 1993 draft by the Orlando Magic, We