EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — What has felt like home for Dwight Howard for the past four months, he can now call home.
While in Southern California rehabbing from March back surgery, there was always someone that had something to say as Howard walked the streets of Beverly Hills.
There was the lady he ran across every morning that always said the same thing.
“Come to the Lakers, come to the Lakers,” Howard said she said daily.
There was the mailman.
And then there was the little girl on her bike.
“You gotta come to the Lakers, you just gotta do it,” said the little girl, who convinced herself that Howard was her new best friend.
The Lakers fans played their part in convincing Howard to come to the Lakers. On Friday, Mitch Kupchak made it official by adding the newest Lakers big man to the fold. The Lakers add Howard, guard Chris Duhon, and forward Earl Clark as part of a four-team trade, while sending Andrew Bynum to Philadelphia. Also as part of the deal, the Lakers send Josh McRoberts, Christian Eyenga, and draft picks to the Magic, ending the Dwight Howard Drama that has taken over the nation.
“Today finally the speculation comes to an end. And we’re hopeful that 10 years from now we can add a jersey onto that wall over there that says Dwight Howard,” Kupchak said as he looked up at the retired jerseys at the Lakers practice facility.
The announcement has ended what has been one of the longest negotiations of Kupchak’s career. For Howard, it presents what he calls “a second chance.”
“Today is Laker day,” Howard said. “What happened in the past is behind me now. I’m looking forward to starting here, starting fresh from now.”
The three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year was giddy when he addressed the media for the first time as a member of the Lakers.
“I’m so excited it’s really hard to talk,” Howard said. “I couldn’t sleep last night.
“I’m happy to be a Laker.”
He’s the latest piece in what was already considered a productive offseason for the Lakers which included the acquisitions of Steve Nash and Antawn Jamison.
The Lakers now boast a probable starting five of Nash, Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace, Pau Gasol, and Howard, who understands his role on the team.
“My job, right now, is to be the best defender I can for this team. I think that’s one of the reasons why the Lakers wanted me here is to defend and be a big presence on the defensive end,” Howard said. “Controlling the paint, that’s what I’m going to continue to do here.”
Included in what Howard calls his “second chance,” is the opportunity to become a better leader, which is something he feels he can learn by playing with Bryant.
“I want to be a great leader,” Howard said. “I have an opportunity to learn from the best in Kobe on how to lead a team and in order to be a great leader you have to learn how to follow.
“I’m looking forward to following in the steps of Kobe Bryant and how he leads a team.”
Mikan, Wilt, Kareem and Shaq are all bigs who will go down in Lakers lore. Howard now has the chance to add his name to that historic group.
“I don’t want to try to compete with those guys, but I want to bring my own flavor to LA,” he said. “I want to be great in my own right. I want to write my own history and today is the first day of that history.”
Howard will continue to rehab and is “hopeful” he’ll be available for the start of the season. However, he says he won’t push it.
After a busy offseason, Kupchak can now take it easy.
“No more home runs,” he said.
With the help of Lakers fans, Kupchak may have knocked the summer of 2012 out of the park.