The Los Angeles Lakers are pulling out all the stops when it comes to keeping free agent center Dwight Howard. They even have the hashtag, #STAYD12, for this campaign.
The Lakers put up a banner at Staples Center. Then they highlighted Kobe Bryant’s quote about Dwight Howard. There were billboards for him (such as the one on Hollywood Blvd.). There was a photoshopped pic of the legendary Beverly Hills Hotel with Dwight Howard’s jersey on it. And then earlier today, there was this. It’s safe to say that there will be more of this to come.
What does FB&G think of this interesting courtship? Five of us each answer five questions about this.
Did it surprise you that the Lakers went on this route?
REY MORALDE: I am. This is unprecedented. The Lakers, while a very public sports franchise, usually have a quiet confidence in them when it comes to… negotiating with their own free agents. But then everything within the last season has been unprecedented itself with the excessive injuries and the Lakers being buried in the weight of their own expectations. Still, this is so weird to me.
ZEPHID: Absolutely not. At this point, it’s pretty clear that plans A through Y are to re-sign Dwight, and any edge they can get, I believe they will take. Whether it be the billboard, or any other crazy huge sign, the Lakers FO will put up anything that will serve as an attention grabber for people (especially Dwight). Perhaps some would want the Lakers to have an air of superiority when it comes to free agents, given the general expectation that all FA’s want to sign with the Lakers. However, I see no harm in making it clear (abundantly so) that the Lakers want Dwight back.
DAVE M.: Not at all although it would’ve been awesome if the BH hotel pic was not photoshopped. This isn’t about the purity of sports or shame or pandering or whatever some think it is. Wasn’t this franchise built on Showtime? As if management would actually not let their PR staff do the job they’re paid to do?
PHILLIP BARNETT: It did a bit. We’re not accustomed to the Lakers as an organization having to sell themselves to a particular player. With the roles reversed, it’s fascinating to see billboards in the city asking Howard to stay with the team despite the fact that it may seem like a calculated ploy to save face incase he leaves. As a fan, I appreciate the effort from the team as they’re, at the very least, making it seem like they’re doing everything they can to field a quality basketball team — but I am surprised that it had to come to this.
RYAN COLE: I am certainly surprised. All my life I’ve never really known the Lakers to be in a position where they seriously had to sell themselves, as well as the city of Los Angeles to a superstar. I must admit it was pretty strange to see the giant billboard riding Figueroa, but at this point, the priority of the franchise is to retain Dwight at all costs. If this is part of the plan, I like it, as opposed to some Laker fans.
Do you think the Lakers would’ve done this if their free agent was another player (ex. Chris Paul, Tim Duncan)?
REY: Nope. I don’t know of any other star that would want billboards, candies, and that kind of pampering from a team like that. I think if someone like CP3 and Duncan received that kind of treatment from the Lakers, they would be a little freaked out. I do understand this is necessary for someone like Dwight but it just doesn’t feel right coming from the 16-time champs. It’s like Friday night dinners at the Gilmores.
ZEPHID: I think so. It’s difficult to say because this type of tactic clearly plays to Dwight’s indecisive side, since I doubt someone as cutthroat as CP3 or as stoic as Duncan would be swayed by such a frivolous message. However, I have no doubt that if CP3 were a Laker, the FO would do anything and everything to keep him. If they felt a sign would help, I think they would have done it.
DAVE: Sure, depending on the star. You’ve got to tailor your approach. Dwight loves attention, you’ve got to play into making him feel wanted, and wanted by the right people. Personally, I’d put him in a room with Phil. He’s not going to be your coach but he could be a guy behind the curtain. Not that he’d want to stay behind the curtain. Phil likes attention, too. That brings up a whole other can of worms.
PHILLIP: I don’t think so. Howard is one of those guys who seems like he has a need to be needed. He’s shown before that he can be fickle in his decisions, and he can be leaning toward one team today, another tomorrow. If Howard wants to be wooed, the Lakers have to woo him. I don’t think this would have been necessary for other guys, however. Most superstars want to know that you’re going to pay them and build a quality team around them, for Howard, it’s a bit more complicated.
RYAN: I do not, but this is what comes with the territory in trying to retain a superstar like Dwight Howard. He needs to feel wanted not only by the Lakers, but by the city of Los Angeles. Dwight’s image has taken a huge hit in the public eye over the last year, so to assure him that he is wanted is the smartest thing to do.
How would you feel if Dwight Howard ended up leaving the Lakers?
REY: I wouldn’t feel too sad about it. The guy carried baggage from Orlando and it’s tough to be a fan of someone that acted so petulantly. However, I know what Dwight brings to the table when healthy and if he did leave, I would only think of all the what-if scenarios. What if he actually just agreed to be the roll man for the pick and roll? What if he just accepted his role as the #2 guy until Kobe Bryant retired?
ZEPHID: Resigned. As in accepting our fate, not as in re-sign (pet peeve). Without a doubt, Dwight leaving would be the end of the short-term Lakers’ championship window. No way a team with an aging Pau, Nash, and Kobe can compete for a title. But is it the end of the world? Certainly not, because the Laker machine will keep on churning no matter what happens. Some have openly talked about tanking to hit the 2014 lottery (shoutouts to @DrewGarrisonSBN and @brosales12 at SS&R), which in my mind isn’t the WORST idea, but I think it’s a tough one to swallow for those who value winning and effort. However, if Dwight does leave, I see the Lakers FO blowing up the roster, trading Pau and Nash for youth and hopefully picks, making the roster so shallow on talent that it wouldn’t have to tank to get a high lottery pick. Given everyone’s general excitement for the 2014 draft and the ability to go after a big time free agent (like LeBron or Melo), this would be the easiest way to rebuild quickly. However, the only flaw in this plan is it effectively cuts off Kobe’s last chance to get a championship, and it’s difficult to see the Lakers FO abandoning that possibility after all Kobe has done for the team.
DAVE: I’d be disappointed but I’m not sure it’s the end of the world. If anything the past year should show us that. The team needs a system and a direction they can all buy into. Plus overall health. I’m not sure there’s any single element more important than that. Mitch has been finding ways to field teams through challenging circumstances for a few years now. Regardless of the cap, I don’t see him throwing up a white flag and tanking a season. Same goes for Kobe, naturally.
PHILLIP: Conflicted. During his short tenure in Los Angeles, Howard has never felt like a member of the Lakers to me. While I understand that these sort of things typically take time with new members of the organization, it hadn’t taken a full season for me to buy into other free agent pick-ups or guys brought in via trade. Pau immediately felt like a Laker when he was brought in. Same with Ron, Steve Blake and, to an lesser extent, Nash. Howard had this summer hanging over the season like a rain cloud and the Forum Blue and Gold he wore seemed akin to a mirage.
RYAN: From a basketball standpoint, I’d feel sorry for the Lakers next season. Dwight leaving would certainly put the stamp on a lost season, especially with the uncertainty of Kobe’s return date. From a personal standpoint, I’d be understanding of Dwight’s decision and have no ill feelings against him. He has the right to leave being that he is a free agent. He’s not entitled to the Lakers, and should not feel as if he is. The city of Los Angeles is not for everyone, as well as the pressures that come with having to perform in a Laker uniform.
How would you feel if Dwight ended up re-signing?
REY: Hooray, I guess. Again, I would still have my reservations because Dwight can be so wishy-washy. Even if he signed that full five-year max deal, I would wonder how long before he would become unhappy again. But I do think Dwight is a guy that can keep the Lakers on top even if most of the team is approaching Methuselah’s age; at his peak, he can defensively dominate a game.
ZEPHID: Curious. Dwight is definitely the big piece, but a team of Dwight, an aging Pau, Nash, and Kobe is still only an outside shot at winning a championship. It would be after this coming season, in Summer 2014, that things get interesting, as only Nash and Howard (should he re-sign) would be under contract as of now, leaving plenty of cap space to pursue the aforementioned superstars. Without a superstar to flank Howard, the Lakers would then become a lesser version of the 2009 Orlando Magic, which would be a surefire way to tread water but never attain a championship. So pretty much, regardless of what Dwight does, it will be Summer 2014 that will shape the destiny of the Lakers in the years to come.
DAVE: I would be good with it but I also want him to be good with the coach because I don’t think that position changes this year.
PHILLIP: On the flip side to my previous answer, I know bringing Howard back would be in the best interest of the team in terms of on the court play. What he does on either side of the floor simply won’t be replaced by any other (available) person in the NBA, and that’s a tough pill to swallow considering Kobe’s championship window, which is closing at an alarming rate. I wouldn’t be jumping for joy with Howard coming back, but it would give me peace of mind that at least part of Mitch and Jim’s plan for the future is in place.
RYAN: I think Howard re-signing ensures that the Lakers will have a franchise player moving forward, so in that aspect I’d be happy for the franchise. Howard is by far the best center in basketball and there are so many things that Dwight does on the basketball court that simply can’t be replicated, so it’s obvious why the Lakers are taking such measures to convince him to stay. Personally, I’m not the guy that’s going to go running through the streets leaping for joy if he stays, but I’ll be content with knowing that the future of the Lakers is in tact.
In one word, what do you think of the #StayD12 campaign overall?