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On Wednesday, Dwight Howard played the Magic — the team that drafted him with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2004. Since he left, he’s played for 5 teams and has made a mockery out of himself on occasion, doing things like calling himself a self-proclaimed “Champion” after losing every season.

Howard isn’t the All-Star center he was when he first arrived to Los Angeles in 2012, but he’s been a star in his role, to borrow a phrase from head coach Frank Vogel. Through 25 games, Howard has posted a defensive rating of 99, according to Basketball Reference, the highest defensive rating he’s posted since his last season with the Magic. Back then, he ranked third in the league in defensive rating. this season, he’s ranked seventh.

The bizarre thing about all of this is that Howard is close to being the staple at Staples. He’s not obviously the star of LeBron or AD, but he’s one of the favorites in the crowd now. Go figure — people love a come back story, and he really provided one.

There was a reason Howard was a free agent in mid-August, when most of the impact players are off the board, but the Lakers took advantage of a low-risk, high-reward situation out of desperation and they got lucky. That’s not to discredit the work Howard did to get himself to where he is mentally and physically, but it took the perfect storm to get Howard back to where is — and where he is is really, really good.

When you consider where Howard was in his career just a year ago, it’s hard not to be happy for him and impressed with what he’s meant to the Lakers this season. Here’s to at least another 73 games of Howard’s comeback year.