Report: Lakers believe Dwight Howard plans to play in Orlando

Los Angeles Lakers star Dwight Howard never intended to halt the NBA restart by addressing concerns in a call organized by Kyrie Irving last week, he said in a statement on Wednesday. He lent his support to players making their own decisions about playing, and while he didn’t say what he will decide, the Lakers believe he plans to play, per the Los Angeles Times.

Avery Bradley also publicly expressed concerns about the re-start in Orlando, which is scheduled to begin July 30, and the organization is “less clear” about his plans, per the Times.

Howard, Irving believe basketball is ‘a distraction’

Howard released a statement over the weekend saying he agreed with Irving and that “basketball, or entertainment period, isn’t needed at this moment, and will only be a distraction.” Irving reportedly is against going to Orlando and wants to work on the frontlines for racial justice. The Brooklyn Nets star reportedly proposed to teammates that they start their own league.

Howard never intended to prevent season restart

Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard released a statement clarifying his thoughts on the NBA returning to play. (Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Howard released another statement on Wednesday via Stadium clarifying what he meant by joining the call Irving hosted. He said the group was not attempting to “halt” the league’s plan and it was “silly” to suggest they could anyway.

Howard’s statement reads in part:

“Our main objective is to raise awareness and gain transparency on the things that concern us collectively. Many of our fellow players are afraid to voice their concerns and are continuing to follow along with what they believe they have to.

“Some of these players may have leaders that could speak for them but unfortunately as history shows, leaders sometimes become self serving [sic] and forget the people that they are supposed to represent. Some leaders even use fear and intimidation to make sure they serve their own agendas, while forgetting the feelings of their people.

“In a time like this where we are fighting for equal rights it would be contradictory if we told our own players to not play and do as we say. We are not here to dictate, nor do we have the power to do so. We want to make sure communication is taking place openly with out fear.

“As radical as Kyrie may sound, he is 100% correct. We are no longer slaves, so every man has a right to transparency in order to make sound decisions.

“And as Avery said, in the decisions we make, be sure we are thinking of everyone collectively and not moving based off of selfish agendas.

“If any one of us chooses to sit, it has nothing to do with another player’s right to play. Not once has any of us told one of our fellow brethren not to go to the Orlando Bubble Experiment and we stressed that in our meetings.

“We spoke about our individual stances, which again, as men and women with free speech we are entitled to do so. We stressed the importance of unity amongst us even if we have a difference in opinion.”

The call took place with more than 80 NBA and WNBA players to discuss any concerns about returning to basketball during a national time of unrest following the death of George Floyd and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The WNBA and its players union agreed to a bubble plan at IMG Academy in Florida that would begin in late July.

A divide in the Lakers?

Howard and Avery’s stances have created questions of a divide in the organization, though one unnamed player told ESPN that wasn’t the case.

LeBron James is still reportedly on board to continue the season, believing he can both win a title and work for racial justice reform.

Via the Los Angeles Times:

“I don't think there's any question amongst players as to what LeBron’s planning on doing,” a person familiar with James’ thinking said.

The Lakers lead the Western Conference by 5.5 games and have a solid shot at winning the NBA title.

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