Wow. Wow. WOW. To be honest, even now, I’m still in shock.
Earlier today I wrote that I seriously doubted the rumored 4 team trade that would land Dwight Howard on the Lakers would happen. Well, I was only partially wrong (and couldn’t be happier about it). The rumored deal has been re-worked and the framework for a Howard trade has been agreed upon by all parties. A call with the league is set for tomorrow morning to get final approval. From ESPN’s report:
A four-team trade that would send Dwight Howard to the Los Angeles Lakers is complete, multiple sources told ESPN on Thursday night. A source with direct knowledge of the talks told ESPN.com’s Marc Stein the Lakers will receive Howard, the Denver Nuggets will acquire Andre Iguodala, the 76ers will receive Andrew Bynum and Jason Richardson, and the Magic will get Arron Afflalo, Al Harrington, Nikola Vucevic and one protected future first-round pick from each of the three teams. In addition, the Magic will be getting other pieces, including 76ers No. 1 draft pick Moe Harkless, a source told Stein.
One name you don’t see listed there is Pau Gasol’s. In what can only be considered a coup by Mitch Kupchak, the Spaniard is staying in Los Angeles and will team with Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest, and Dwight Howard to form a starting lineup for the ages. As if getting Howard wasn’t enough.
But let that reality sink in some more. Dwight Howard will be a Laker.
He is the premier big man in the league. In the season before last, he was the runner up for the MVP award. He’s won 3 defensive player of the year awards. He’s a superstar of the highest order, bringing two way impact that that’s felt on the floor and from a marketing perspective. There was no bigger fish to be had this summer and he’ll be wearing the forum blue and gold next season.
Of course, there are some concerns. First of all, he’s currently not able to play basketball. As of this writing, he’s rehabbing his back after season ending surgery. Second of all, he’s made no commitment to the Lakers beyond next season. One of the reasons he’s even available is the fact that he’s not under contract beyond next year and has expressed the fact that he’ll test the free agent waters once his current deal expires.
However, it’d be silly to think the Lakers haven’t thought those issues over one hundred times over. Howard has been rehabbing his back in Los Angeles and it’s fair to assume they’ve done their due diligence on his progress and are comfortable that he’ll be ready to play at a high level next year. As for keeping him beyond next season, the Lakers will not only have Howard’s Bird Rights but can sell him on the history of the franchise and the team’s status as perennial contender for the championship. There are few, if any franchises, that can give Howard the market, dollars, and chance to win that the Lakers do and you can bet they’ll spend the upcoming campaign convincing him that his future is with this team.
All that said, those are concerns for another day. Today, the Lakers and their fans can celebrate. They’ve nabbed the league’s best big man. Its premier defensive player. Its best pick and roll big finisher and one of the few elite hedge/recover defensive bigs. If there’s a single player that could have taken an already primed team to the next level, it was Howard.
After the Nash acquisition, the signing of Antawn Jamison, and the return of Jordan Hill the Lakers were already on the doorstep of being one of the few teams that could claim challenger status to the Thunder and the Heat. Now, the Lakers have kicked in that door and placed themselves right in the middle of the conversation. They’ve made a fantastic team even better.
Kudos to Mitch Kupchak and Jim Buss. The front office that just a season ago was questioned on the trade of Lamar Odom and its ability to make the necessary moves has transformed the team in a single summer. They’ve spent the money, made the prudent trades, and held on to the guys they’ve wanted to.
It’s really unbelievable. Dwight Howard will be a Laker. I still can barely believe it.