The phrase “Laker for life” is truly getting a workout this offseason.
In the first few hours of NBA free agency on Monday, the Lakers reportedly have agreed to terms with three veterans: Trevor Ariza, Wayne Ellington, and Dwight Howard. All are older players on one-year deals with needed skills to build a roster around the Lakers’ star trio – and notably, all have been Lakers before.
ESPN was first to report Ariza’s deal; Yahoo led on Ellington’s deal and The Athletic was the first to report on Howard. A person with knowledge of the Lakers’ offseason plans had previously told Southern California News Group a Howard reunion was possible this offseason.
But the first day was not without pain: Alex Caruso agreed to a four-year, $37 million deal with the Chicago Bulls, according to ESPN, which leaves the Lakers without perhaps their best perimeter defender from last season and a perennial fan favorite who was on the 2020 championship team.
Both Ariza, 36, and Howard, 35, won titles with the Lakers in previous stints: Ariza was on the 2009 title team that topped Howard’s Orlando Magic, and Howard won it all in 2020 in his second stint with the franchise. The Lakers are betting that these older players will help reignite championship magic on a roster built around All-Stars LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook.
Ariza averaged 9.4 points and 4.8 rebounds for the Miami Heat last season after his contract was bought out by Oklahoma City. The UCLA product is entering his 18th NBA season, and the Lakers will be his seventh team in the last four years.
After Howard once thought he might be returning last offseason, he makes his third trip to L.A. after playing one season in Philadelphia, where he averaged 7.0 points and 8.4 rebounds. He’ll give the Lakers a physical presence at center, as well as familiarity with Coach Frank Vogel’s scheme.
Ellington returns to the Lakers after a one-year campaign during a forgettable 2014-15 season. The 33-year-old shot better than 42% from 3-point range while averaging 9.6 for the Detroit Pistons last season.
More to come on this story.