Friday Forum

Dave Murphy —  February 8, 2013

It was early in the 4th quarter and Steve Kerr asked an obvious question, “Why do you think Dwight Howard’s on the floor?” The Lakers were down by 32 points and the beleaguered center had been tossed back into the chum for some reason or another. It was his first game back after a week off due to a torn labrum. He was playing hurt and playing poorly and the team would be facing the Bobcats in less than 24 hours. A couple minutes later Dwight picked up his sixth foul, thereby solving his awkward dilemma. He trudged back to the bench and sat down slowly and stiffly. And the game burned out.

It has been a trainwreck of a season for the Los Angeles Lakers, sprinkled with hopeful resets and black holes. Jordan Hill’s out for the season. Pau Gasol’s out for at least six weeks. And Howard has been a curious and inconsistent presence – perfect fodder for a media market that licks its chops at the prospect of a newly-arrived superstar who’s not only injured but can’t or won’t keep his mouth shut. Earlier this week, Dwight said that his legs go numb after sitting for a couple minutes. It’s not a reassuring message to be sending out, especially when your team has just promised not to trade you.

It’s been that kind of season. Inexplicable. Contradictory. And willingly spoon-fed into the gaping yaw of the media blitz.

***

So long to the Superman pseudonym writes Dave McMenamin for ESPN GO.

J.A. Adande for True Hoops says Dwight is right, but wrong for the Lakers.

Kevin Ding for the OC Register writes about Dwight and a case of rust.

Jeff Miller at the OC Register looks at Dwight’s headlines and headaches.

Paul Flannery for SB Nation examines a tough first night back, in Boston.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports tells of a reluctant partnership that’s not improving.

As Mike Bresnahan for the L.A. Times reports, there won’t be much of the season left when Pau Gasol finally returns.

Drew Garrison for Silver Screen and Roll dissects Pau’s nightmare season.

Clint Peterson for Hardwood Paroxysm profiles Kobe Bryant,

Mark Medina for Inside the Lakers brings Kobe’s assertion that his comments were overblown.

Jabari Davis at Lakers Nation writes about the need to come together before tonight’s game.

***

If Dwight Howard is drawn to the media flame like a moth, Kobe Bryant toys with it. He measures it, F-bombs it, uses and abuses it. He learned to compartmentalize long ago, can pick and choose his targets. It’s not unlike his approach to injuries or his approach to the game itself. If he mangles a couple fingers or tears the ligaments from his wrist, he’ll adjust. This season he has played the scoring leader, the defender, the set-up man and now, is trying to form a hybrid package while teammates fall in disarray. The hopelessness around you. He may be the most polarizing basketball player in modern history. His detractors have a bottomless supply of whys and why-nots. Bryant laughs it off like a guy who’s scored 30,000 points and won five rings.

The All-Star break hasn’t yet arrived. And yet the season feels old. The Lakers are three and two so far on their Grammy road trip and that normally wouldn’t be cause for alarm except they’re still in 10th place in the west and running out of track. This past week, Bryant wondered aloud about the team’s agenda with Pau Gasol. He spoke about Dwight’s lack of experience with injuries. And as he has increasingly done lately, he mused about the possibility of retiring after next season and the importance of championships. If the rest of the season looks dark and rocky, the summer has the potential to go nuclear.

Dave Murphy

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25 responses to Friday Forum

  1. good articles by awoj and ja. i hope we can bounce back in charlotte. but i do wonder who howard is comfortable with in the FO. I don’t think PJ was the only guy for this job, but it’s clearly getting the point where the coach has to worry about his job first versus the condition of his players. And that’s not good when the coach is giving off signs like that – intentional or not. You have to be smarter than that. Honestly, who cares if howard is “medically cleared” to play? How will he play – physically and mentally? That’s just not a good road to go down. Throw in the drama with pau, and the overall turmoil of this season, it would be a minor miracle to make the playoffs. I don’t know if DH would be open to working with kareem, and I think he’s kind of on the outs with the FO, but DH needs to have some kind of relationship with someone there if he’s gonna stick around.

  2. One day closer to a Dwight-less future in L.A.

  3. Dave, a true music fan!! Love the Harrison quote-
    @trianglefan-nice post dude

  4. Cue sad violin music.

  5. @Formalhault – i understand your feelings all too well right now, but personally i´m working on keeping the faith; you know Mamba is, so why not us? btw, i enjoy your posts -

  6. @PurpleBlood – it’s such a great song.

  7. rr: Agree with most of your logic, but I do need to make one grim point. Part of your response that losing DH might not be a disaster, was based on the fact that he could spend the next 5 years on/off the injury list. So what this means is that the disaster already occurred true? So – yes – if we knew that (which you are saying we don’t), we would not sign him, but either way, the supposed cornerstone of our future is not with us for whatever reason – true? If he is never the same, we don’t have the DH we need and if he walks and stars for someone else, that is not good either – disaster either way ! – like I said, it was a grim thought.

    Reading the last thread, many are talking of rebuilding, yet the specifics are elusive. However most want to seem to get rid of everyone. DH has fewer people who want to keep him, Pau is widely viewed as a liability, waiting to be thrown out, Nash is not even mentioned – because that situation is so non-exciting, and now people are beginning to mention “the end” every time KB is the topic. So like I said, is the plan to build around Earl Clark? What we are basically talking about, is what I referred to last year, as the “Scorched Earth” policy. Since rr is on a roll today, perhaps he can share his thoughts on how such a policy has worked for other teams in the past.

  8. I seriously don’t want to keep harping on about D12, given the guy just recently had major surgery done on his back and is clearly playing hurt. Not everyone can play with injuries like a Kobe can, I still wouldn’t blame him taking it easy..Even though we’re in a pretty sorry state. He does play the position where you do get beat up more than the rest do.

    BUT It’s gotten to a point where I’m seriously questioning whether or not he actually wants to be in LA and not because he isn’t 100%.

    Do we really want him around for 5 years? I’ve seen nothing from him to even suggest the guy will be any good even when he’s back to being 100%. He’s a defensive monster when he wants to be and an absolute liability on the offensive end. If we’re really going to sign him on, we’ll need to build a team around him not the other way round.

    After questioning Deron Williams a few days ago, who went from being a big fish in a small pond to a big fish (not anymore) in a big pond.. I’m starting to feel the same way about D12.

  9. Robert,

    Well, basically, barring some huge, unforessen trade, the LakerEarth will scorch itself in June of 2014. Either the Lakers will have Howard + cap space, or just cap space. I would prefer the former, even with the risks. I think we should remember that as recently as 18 months ago, there was pretty wide agreement among most observers (stat guys, media guys, fans) that Dwight Howard was probably the second-best player in the NBA. I think some people are confused here between “disappointing” and “bad.” Even as Howard is now, he is still very good. Metta, ironically, had the most reasoned take on Howard, pointing out that this is a guy playing hurt and averaging 17/11.

    So, I think it is pretty simple in some ways: for now, keep Howard, keep Pau, and ride it out. If Howard walks, start 2014 with Pau at the 5, Clark at the 4, Metta at the 3, Kobe at the 2, and Nash at the 1, try to get a better bench by building a defensive bench with some youth, see what happens, and look at where you are at the deadline.

    If Howard stays, and you want to keep MDA, then I think you think about moving Pau for a more mobile 4. a wing, a backup 1 and/or a pick or two.

    You mentioned Nash. His rate stats are still very good, and he is, in his quiet way, a tough competitor. I would not count him out for 2014; I think some people here have been too down on him, as well. But again–I think he would benefit from more court time without Kobe, so he can play true Nashball and they need, need, need a perimeter defender who can help them get stops.

    Long-term? Hard to say. One guy to think about is Kevin Love, who has ties to LA and seems unhappy in Minnesota.

  10. Robert,

    As to the other question, we have discussed this, as you suggest. Short version: OKC is the exception, not the rule. To add to the point, there is already some consensus among scouts that there are no franchise players in the upcoming draft. This is not to say that drafting this year is a waste of time; far from it. One reason everything is so hard for the 2013 Lakers is that even the league’s weakest teams have young guys who are athletic and can hurt a team like the Lakers. But there are many teams which have been in the lottery for years and years…

    Minnesota
    Toronto
    Washington
    Golden State
    Sacramento

    The preCP3/BG Clippers

    ..,and are still lottery squads or if not that, not championship-level squads. The first principle of NBA team-building is to get a franchise player or failing that, at least a Top 25 guy. Daryl Morey, possibly the most stat-driven GM in the league, knows this. He traded for Pau (vetoed), tried to get Bosh, tried to get Bynum, got Harden and will be trying to get Howard. Mitch Kupchak, perhaps the least stat-oriented GM in the NBA, also knows this. Howard’s back may end his career, but I think there is a very good chance that he will be a Top 25 guy or maybe more over the next 3-4 years. I would keep him.

    That said, you can’t just go 19-63 ten years in a row and hope that you win the lottery the year Shaquille O’Neal comes out. You have to build the team, and it matters who your 5th-best and 8th-best players are. The Lakers need to do better with that.

    So, I think “blowing it up”, while it would make the Lakers younger, is probably not the way to go.

  11. dave m: interesting, kobe throwing f-bombs? somebody had to throw them, it had to be thrown; had to get done. we’re talking about fridays, right? it feels like a three ring; no make that a multiple ring circus mixed in with clown faces, disney’s teacup; magic mountain’s full throttle ride of a laker season. it’s never a dull moment and we wouldn’t have it any other way. it’s weird and it’s karma and yet fits kobe to a capital T as in titanic. women and children first and did that captain really go down with the ship because he was brave or was he drunk and going down with the ship just happened to be a coincidence? we may never know.

    ten years from now, this season may be a lesson in futility. or just the opposite can happen; a miracle of a season never before possible given all the insanities we’ve witnessed this current laker season. it’s a miracle of and in itself that we’re still talking about this misbegotten season but after all we are the laker following…..f-bombs and all.

    i can’t ever remember a laker season where the odds of even making the playoffs was stacked against us quite this way.

    enjoy the weekend.

    Go Lakers

  12. There is no doubt that DH12 is a superbly gifted athlete and can be a solid player even when injured. The question I want answered is whether he has the grit and fire in his belly to be a championship contender. If he does not have that grit and fire, we should trade him now rather than suffer years of disappointment with him as our next franchise leader.

    Shaq has been the only person I have seen who was so physically gifted that he could afford to slack off and still shine. But even Shaq had pride, and Phil was a master at creating competition between Shaq and Kobe to drive each to try to outperform the other. Shaq understood that he could be the leader only if he was the best player on the team. It was not until Kobe started surpassing him that he stopped trying.

    True alpha dogs know that alpha dog status comes from being the best in the pack. If DH12 wants the Lakers to be his team, then he needs to be the best player on the team. Kobe has been consistent in respecting those who play hard against him. He knows father time is catching up to him, but he is not going to hand over his crown to DH12 simply because DH12 wants to be the leader. He will hand over the crown when DH12 takes it from him. A true alpha dog would accept Kobe’s challenge to be better than Kobe. The fact that DH12 does not seem to understand this dynamic suggests that the grit and fire necessary to win it all might not be in his DNA.

  13. rr

    I dont think many are saying that Howard is not good, but the money he will ask for he will need to be great. Andrew Bynum could have been great but bad knees will rob him of that opportunity, Now it seems D12 is headed in that same direction with less polish in the post and too much of a reliance on pure athleticism. NO BUENO. If the FO can get what it wants for D12, whether thats expiring contracts or young players with a high ceiling to start the 2014 cleansing earlier than expected. Or keep him and he will walk on his own at the end of the year with nothing to show for AB or Howard in return. I dont see how the FO could talk him into staying after what happened to him in Orl, now he is physically beat up and mentally drained from not living up to expectations at the beginning of the season. I would choose option #1 over #2 anyday of the week. Its hard to say this rainbow in the sky lead this franchise to a pot of poo, but that reality and the situation the team is currently in.

  14. If Dwight was a good fundamental players he would still be mire throttle then he us worth. Regardless of whether or not the public challenge by Kobe was right is not the point. The issue is this guy is a weak emotionally. Can you imagine what Garnett would do and say to him in a big game? He might make little Dwight cry. You can’t be a professional player and act like a little baby, a child a girly girl. That will never change. Add his fumbling, bumbling, fouling, high schooish play and free throw bricking and you have years of issues.

    As a fan I like nothing about this guy on or off the court. Not even going to go near the rumors of him off the court. All I know is he is
    weak and not the ” man” anyone thinks or thought he was.

  15. NCDon,

    This gets us into areas that are hard to discuss on the board due to the trade spec policy (not criticizing the policy, just contextualizing the discussion), but I think trading Howard would be extremely difficult, as it was for Orlando, if for no other reason than he is a UFA so even if you could put together a 3-or-4 team deal in which the Lakers somehow got “expiring contracts or high ceiling young players” it would be tough to execute it. Kevin Pelton at ESPN Insider wrote up an article which I didn’t read, with eight Howard scenarios, and that would be the palce to look for people who want to trade Howard, since Pelton is a good analyst.

    But, again, the history of the game teaches us that in the NBA, trading big stars for bulk packages rarely works out that well. For example, Orlando is doing very poorly, and they are back in the lottery game, looking for another guy as good as Dwight Howard.

    So, the Howard thing for me is a medical issue. Only trade him if you think the back is going to end him.

  16. Kooo: I take personal responsibility for this. Dwight would not be here if it wasn’t for me. However you still have your job that I gave you. I can’t talk about it though because I have banned myself from any coaching discussions. However if you would like to update me on the cheerleader portion of your job – I would be interested. While I did pledge to not discuss coaching, I have not sworn off dabbling in with girls in uniform as you have : )

  17. rr?

    Metta as the 3? Guy is shooting 25% from the field the last 8 games and getting punked by everyone like Pierce on defense. He is 2nd biggest problem Lakers have. Metta, Meeks and Howard must go! That’s $30 million a year of wasted space IMO!

  18. As long as Kobe is playing for the Lakers, the front office, and to a lesser extent their fans need to look at possible future Laker acquisitions differently. They need to let Kobe conduct the interviews, and decide who’s ready to play with him & play his way. Otherwise they will continue to get guys like D-12 & Nash. Teammates that sound good on paper, but don’t connect well on the court. In addition, let Kobe pick his coach too. And I’m serious. At least that way, Kobe can’t blame anyone else for a Laker failure. Besides they can’t possibly play any worse than this season. And just imagine if Kobe can actually lead the Lakers to one more title…doing things his way…choosing players, coach, and playing. He’d easily be considered the best NBA person ever. It’s the only way.

    Once Kobe retires, then things can return to normal.

  19. Robert

    I don’t know what you do for a living but,,,,,,,,,,,you may need several part time night jobs if you want to try the world of cheerleaders. Body part alone cost me tons in my first marriage to the Raiderette!

    Find a nice cute girl with a Lakers t-shirt and you will be happier. On 2nd thought try one who likes long skiing trips during BB season.

  20. KOOO,

    I would be fine with another guy at the 3, but we need to remember that the Lakers are way, way over the cap and tax line again next year, so the only guys they can offer more than the mini-mid level to are Clark and Howard. Even if they amnesty Blake or Metta, they will still have that problem. So, I would keep Metta and try to get some help for him and Kobe at the wing–a young guy who can move his feet. That was supposed to be Ebanks, but it hasn’t happened.

  21. BigCitySid: normal as in no rings in the 90s normal. I’ve decided Dwight deserves most blame. He has failed to fit into the culture of the Lakers. His ego is getting in the way of his relationship with Kobe and him living up to his own talent. Kobe really has been a leader off the court. Dwight is a cancer and has infected this team with his poisonous persona splitting the locker room.

  22. @ Kevin, Normal as in all previous rings. I’m surprised your memory is so short. Kobe has always wanted to call the personnel shots. Dr. Buss just never paid him any attention. Basically informing him to “just play”. Jim Buss appears to pay more attention to him. So let him do what he wants the way he wants.

    One thing has become quite clear. The Lakers will never win another title with Kobe as their best player. I have no problem giving Kobe his props, he lead the Lakers to their last two titles, but everyone knows the previous 3 were won due to the 1-2 punch of Shaq & Kobe, w/ 3 time Final MVP Shaq obviously being the #1 punch.

    So the question is: is their anyone in the NBA that Kobe is willing play play #2 to? Or as many of you guys prefer to say “play 1B to”? If the answer is no one, than I stand by my statement.

  23. BigCitySid: kobe proved his worth those 3 titles runs against sa & sac. Shaq proved 96-99 he needed help, a 1b and that was kobe. Mvp is not the final say so they both were vital. Kobe again has proved he’s willing to change, even though the 1st half of the season there were frustrating games, for the better of the team. It’s not about playing the sidekick but fitting into the lakers culture kobe help build and dwight hasn’t done it. It’s become more and more clear the team play is more fluid without dwight because they want to make him happy or he’ll mope and shut it down. When nice guys like pau and nash are openly taking shots at him that’s when you know he’s not doing everything he can to help the team.

  24. Big City Sid,
    You’re saying other’s memories are short, but your memory seems quite selective. After Mitch pulled off the Pau trade and Bynum proved how good he could be, Kobe came out and said he was “done playing GM” and would leave personnel decisions to management.

    Also, championships aren’t only won in the Finals, they’re won through grueling playoff runs where every series matters. Kobe had brilliant moments (even out playing Shaq) in many games against teams like the Spurs and Kings. But that’s really beside the point. The main point is that teams win championships. The Lakers likely have fewer rings without Robert Horry and Rick Fox. Without Derek Fisher and Brian Shaw. And certainly without Phil Jackson.

    The need to dole out credit or minimize the accomplishments of Kobe (or Shaq or Gasol or whoever else) is typically agenda driven.

  25. I decided to ignore Sid on that one; but I am glad some other people called him out. My view is:

    Kobe is a great but flawed player, and certainly sometimes deserves criticism.

    I am perfectly fine with guys like James, Sid and Neil saying “I don’t like Kobe Bryant. I don’t like either him or his style of play”

    But mixing the two leads nowhere, analytically, and doing so shows a lack of self-awareness.