Skip to main content

Sixers' Dwight Howard is Content With Staying Out of Starting Lineup

When the Philadelphia 76ers inked veteran center Dwight Howard to a one-year contract, they were getting arguably the best backup center that they've had since drafting Joel Embiid back in 2014. 

Knowing that Embiid is expected to miss several games out of the year due to injuries or rest, it was clear that Howard would take on the All-Star's starting role when he's out. This year, Embiid has missed five out of 21 games. 

Sixers head coach Doc Rivers started Howard at the center position in the first four matchups, as expected. But on Sunday night against the Indiana Pacers, Rivers rolled with Tony Bradley over Howard.

"I like Dwight playing with the second group because that's what he's used to," Rivers explained before Sunday's game. "I typically try to keep at least one group together, so you don't change that. I could start Tony tonight -- most likely, I will."

Rivers ended up sticking to his guns and started Bradley over Howard for the first time this season. Fortunately, it worked out for the better. Howard logged 25 minutes off the bench and scored 11 points while collecting 15 rebounds and blocking two shots.

For former stars such as Howard, it's typically difficult to accept coming off the bench. In Howard's case, though, he's been as selfless as they come for the Sixers. As he knows he's the No. 2 option behind Joel Embiid no matter what, Howard doesn't mind remaining out of the starting lineup even when Embiid's not healthy.

"I told (Doc Rivers) I don't care if I start, if I come off the bench, if I have to run through a wall or whatever. . . Whatever it takes for us to win, I'll do it," Howard said after Sunday's game against the Pacers.

"When Tony (Bradley) got the call for the start tonight, I was very excited for him," Howard continued. "Young player, he's been working extremely hard to get himself back in shape and get himself going. It's good for him. That experience is going to be great for him in the future."

Howard's chemistry with the second group made starting Tony Bradley an easy decision on Sunday. It's unclear if that's the plan moving forward for all games Embiid will sit out, but If Howard can give consistent production off the bench, the 76ers will be wise to keep him where he's thriving no matter what.

Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for Sports Illustrated. You can follow him on Twitter: @JGrasso_