Dwight Howard returned to Staples Center on Thursday for the first time since winning a title with the Los Angeles Lakers. He did a good job of showing the team what kind of shenanigans it lost when it declined to sign him in free agency last offseason.
First, the Philadelphia 76ers center received his championship ring alongside teammate Danny Green in a pregame ceremony. The pair were key rotation players on the Lakers' 2019-20 team, with Green starting every playoff game and Howard leading the team in minutes at center.
Howard proceeded to play against his old team, and he was soon getting into it with Lakers big man Montrezl Harrell.
First, Howard and Harrell got into an awkward chest-to-chest interaction that ended with Harrell shoving Howard away. Both players received technical fouls for the confrontation. Howard received one more tech (and one more shove) a minute later when he walked into Harrell — you be the judge if it was intentional — at the end of the first quarter.
The triggered an automatic ejection:
Ben Simmons received an additional technical foul, resulting in two Lakers free throws at the opening of the second quarter. Howard finished the game with six points, two rebounds and two blocks in six minutes.
Sixers coach Doc Rivers was unamused by the incident during a halftime interview:
This kind of stuff happening on a player's ring night really feels like the kind of thing that can only happen to Dwight Howard. Then again, JaVale McGee and J.R. Smith were also members of the Lakers' championship team.
It's also worth noting there is some backstory between Howard and Harrell at play here.
Dwight Howard and Montrezl Harrell have some awkward history
Last offseason, Howard entered the NBA free agent market and appeared to be very interested in a Lakers reunion. Then things got awkward when Howard proudly tweeted he was returning to the team, then quietly deleted the tweet.
About an hour later, it was reported Howard was headed to Philadelphia instead.
It later emerged that Howard was under the belief he had a one-year, $3 million offer from the Lakers, but in reality the team never made a formal offer and was merely floating a "deal concept." The team told Howard's agent it needed to get the offer approved by ownership, but after an hour of no communication, Howard decided to heed the Sixers' call instead.
After that awkward divorce, the Lakers signed Harrell, the reigning NBA Sixth Man of the Year, and Marc Gasol to replace its big man tandem of Howard and McGee. So you can imagine why Howard might have had some residual weirdness aimed straight at Harrell on Thursday.
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