Archives For Dwight Howard

Dwight Howard chose the Rockets.

Typing that is frustrating. It induces anxiousness. But it is also not surprising.

Granted, I did not think it would go this way. There were a lot of reasons why I believed what I did, but ultimately those don’t matter much right now. His decision is made and while it would be easy to try and find some sort of fault in his logic or try to defame his character for the choice he made, I will not do either. He made a choice that he thought was best for him and his career. Whether or not his decision will be validated with the reaching of his goals is something that only time will reveal, but he should know that the expectations that would have towered over him in Los Angeles to win at the highest level will follow him to Houston. Such is the reality of being one of the elite players in the sport.

But this is no longer about Dwight Howard. The focus shifts, now, to the Lakers and what this means for them and what they will do in response to losing a player of his magnitude.

In GM Mitch Kupchak’s statement, he noted that the Lakers “will now move forward in a different direction with the future of the franchise and, as always, will do our best to build the best team possible, one our great lakers fans will be proud to support.” What that looks like remains to be seen and how they go about achieving that is an open question that will take time to develop and patience to enact. There will be ups and downs in this process and it’s a guarantee that it won’t go smoothly at every interval.

There will also be disagreement with whatever approach is taken. There will be advocates for any and all strategies that have potential to get the team back to the top. There really aren’t any right answers in this quest. There is really only preference. This will lead to disagreements and hyperbolic statements and those thinking their way is best. But this is just noise.

The fact is, the hard path begins from a different spot than many would have hoped. The path to where the team wants to be will be one filled with questions and second guessing and a wondering if the goal is really even attainable. History tells us it will happen, but the new rules have been put in place, in part, to render history less meaningful.

I can say that I’m disappointed, but not devastated. Dwight Howard has proven to be a fantastic player in his career and those are the types of players you reach the mountain top with. The fact that he’s gone is meaningful just as it would be if he’d stayed. However, the fact is that having him guaranteed nothing. Hard work and good fortune would have been needed and without him that will still be the case.

There’s not a reasonable argument that the Lakers are better off without him in the short or immediate future. Down the line when he would have potentially been owed that extra $30 million that only the Lakers could offer (or when he opts out and wants another long term maximum extension) might have proved to be more complicated, but those are no longer issues the Lakers have to deal with. I’d be lying if I said I’d rather the Lakers didn’t have to make those hard choices, but I’d also be lying if I didn’t acknowledge that I anticipate them being hard ones. Especially if the team’s goals weren’t reached in the years leading up to having to make them.

But the Lakers are freed from that responsibility and with that comes a new set of hurdles to clear. Friday was a step back for the franchise and now they must prove they can get back on their feet and triumph once more. My guess is that they’ll be able to do it. In my lifetime, I’ve seen it too many times to doubt the final goal is somehow out of reach. I’d have liked it better if there was more certainty as the team embarks on this path, but in a way that uncertainty is what’s at the heart of sports. There are never any assurances, after all.

But, in the end, I’ll put my money on the Lakers to find a way. Even without Dwight Howard as one of the pillars.

UDATE #2: It’s official. Dwight Howard has informed the Lakers that he will not re-sign with the team and will instead play for the Rockets. Here’s a statement from GM Mitch Kupchak:

“We have been informed of Dwight’s decision to not return to the Lakers. Naturally we’re disappointed. However, we will now move forward in a different direction with the future of the franchise and, as always, will do our best to build the best team possible, one our great lakers fans will be proud to support. To Dwight, we thank him for his time and consideration, and for his efforts with us last season. We wish him the best of luck on the remainder of his NBA career.”

UPDATE: Everything written in the post below this update may end up being true. So, just remember that when you read this next sentence: Dwight Howard is, reportedly, having second thoughts about signing with the Rockets and is set to land in L.A. to speak with GM Mitch Kupchak where he may or may not have a meeting with Lakers’ brass before making his final decision. According to Chris Broussard of ESPN, Dwight is having concerns about leaving the guaranteed 5th year and $30 million in salary on the table from the Lakers in favor of what the Rockets can offer. It is said to be a “50-50″ race between the Lakers and the Rockets at this point. If you find all of this confusing or frustrating, you’re not alone. Hopefully we get a final word on this soon so that this entire fiasco can come to an end.

– Darius

This is a tough one to stomach considering what the Lakers lose in terms of building for the future. The 2012-13 Lakers season was one of the most bewildering in recent memory. Mitch went out and fielded a conjectural super team, but injuries, a coaching change and Dwight Howard’s free-agency quietly following the Lakers everywhere they traveled like the ghosts in Super Mario — and every time we stopped to turn around and looked at may happen — it just covered its eyes and ignored the situation.

At some point, the situation had to be addressed. He was asked about his impending free agency in his exit interview and informed the world that he was going to need some time to decide. Then earlier this week, the Rockets, Lakers and a few other teams made a pitch for Howard’s services. Howard told the teams he’d head to Colorado and mull over his options and decide by Friday. And a decision was made, and was first reported by USA Today’s Sam Amick.

The Lakers, who had an extra year and $30 million to offer Howard, were spurned by the big man in news that isn’t exactly shocking, but flummoxing, to say the least. The Lakers have always been one of those teams who get their guy, and they’ve had more success off the strength of great centers than any other team in the association.

Nonetheless, we’re entering an era of Lakers basketball that we’ve been unfamiliar with for the past 15 years. The team, as currently constructed, is going to be good enough to win some games and maybe compete for the 6th through 8th seeds in the playoffs, but this may be a team too good to acquire high draft picks, hoops purgatory, if you will.

It’ll be fascinating to see where the Lakers go from here. Their plan to have an abundance of cap space in the summer of 2014 has not been compromised, so all is not lost, but losing Howard is a huge hit to this team’s ability to lure the league’s top free agents. We’ll have more analysis about what this means for the Lakers soon.

Friday Forum

Dave Murphy —  July 5, 2013

Dwight Howard sat cross-legged at the edge of the bluff, hawks circling lazily through thermal drafts, a winding river below. He was deep into his contemplative flow. A U-shaped phalanx of advisers dressed in Patagonia and Eddie Bauer outdoor wear sat nearby, ultimately attentive. Behind the first row sat a couple junior advisers whose sole duties were monitoring various social media applications and condensing them into whispered one-sentence sound bites for the prime row advisers.

Dwight furrowed his brow. “I’m just not sure. It’s a lot to think about.”

Greek Chorus: “It’s is a lot to think about Dwight. It is a lot!”

Dwight sighed. “I’m not looking to hurt anybody.”

Greek Chorus: “Of course you aren’t. It’s just business, everyone understands.”

Dwight squinted as he tracked a Zone-tailed hawk. “Did we ever hear from Phil?”

Greek Chorus: “That is a negative, sir.”

One of the back row underlings whispered something urgently.

Greek Chorus: “Lakers bracing for the worst, buddy. Bracing for the worst.”

Dwight frowned. “Hey, the purple and gold’s still prominent in my mind.. I like Ellen, Jimmy Kimmel. I like my favorite restaurants.”

One of the less intense members of the chorus spoke up. “We’ll have very nice breakfast after the morning contemplation. Seared rainbow trout crepes with wild strawberry compote.”

The underling whispered frantically again.

Greek Chorus: “Hakeem says 85 percent it’s Houston.”

Dwight cocked his head. “Is that coming from us?”

The members quickly exchanged looks, weighing possible answers. Again, one bold soul spoke up. “Houston’s offering free food, y’know.”

The very tall man relaxed again. Free things were always nice. “I like it here. All my stress is melting away. What d’you think a nice mountain retreat would run me? Nothing real fancy, maybe a post and beam cabin, lots of indigenous stone, maybe ten, fifteen thousand square feet inside?”

One of the tanned and extraordinarily intuitive advisers whipped his head around to stare directly at one of the social media monitors. “Get me some MLS printouts right now, nice glossy pics.”

The underling hesitated. “I can’t print from my iPhone.”

The tanned adviser glared bullets. “Yes you can. Go get the portable printer from the sweat lodge. Do it, now! No breakfast for you.”

Dwight adjusted his position, squared his shoulders and breathed deeply of the mountain air. There was no reason to rush his decision. It was a nice Friday morning and his team had things well in hand. He was looking forward to breakfast. Maybe a nice late morning hike afterward.


Wednesday Storylines

Dave Murphy —  July 3, 2013

The NBA free agency period has only been on the books since the stroke of midnight Sunday but it already seems like an eternity. The Lakers have been busy on multiple fronts, exploring ways to shore up the roster without much money to spend and also looking at ways to hang onto some of our own free agents. One in particular has been attracting a bit of attention – Dwight Howard may or not choose to remain in Los Angeles and will deliberate these matters with his representatives over the long 4th of July weekend. There’s plenty of variables to consider, chief among them being the desire to win. Team Dwight appears to have chosen Aspen, Colorado as the place to get clear.

Among the Lakers’ non-Dwight priorities is Earl Clark: Mark Medina, L.A. Daily News.

Meanwhile, Earl has a second meeting with the Cleveland Cavs: Drew Harrison Silver Screen & Roll.

An outline of Lakers FA prospects, from current to old to new faces: Dave McMenamin, ESPN.

Golden State is right in the mix with Dwight but would need a sign and trade: Kurt Helin, ProBasketballTalk

Why a Warriors trade makes sense: C.A. Clark, Silver Screen & Roll.

True to spirit, Kobe challenged rather than schmoozed Dwight: Adrian Wojnarowski, Yahoo!

Timing’s everything in pitch meetings: Brian Kamenetzky, Land O’Lakers.

The Lakers focus on franchise, fans, community and branding with Dwight: Mike Bresnahan, L.A. Times.

The Lakers are not about to start tanking if Dwight leaves: Mark Heisler, Lakers Nation.

So this is the part called the waiting game. The Lakers have taken down the banner at Staples Center, and other teams have decided to follow suit, concentrating instead on picnics and softball games. Dwight and his team of advisers will be fully cloistered at a tranquil Rocky Mountain retreat. Just hanging out, doing a little fishing, maybe tubing down an excellent stream. No social media, no cell phones, no pesky calls from annoying team execs professing their undying love. Nope. Just Dwight and his crew, communing with mother nature, away from the world. And this means there will be no further media reports, no twitter, no trade machines, no more speculation. Cue the chirping crickets. Right?

The meetings are over. Over the span of three days, Dwight Howard and his team of decision makers sat through presentations of five teams — the Rockets, Hawks, Warriors, Mavericks, and Lakers — about why he should accept their offer of large amounts of cash and various other incentives and play for their organizations. Dwight has now retreated to Colorado for a few days to consider his options and make a decision.

There are many variables to consider when making this choice, but reports from early in this process state that Dwight’s biggest concern is winning at the highest level. He’s already been the to Finals once and would like to return several times over and, when he does, claim the trophy that eluded him in 2009. So, while media exposure (both domestic and foreign), money, and many other lifestyle factors will play a part in all this, Dwight’s decision will supposedly come down to basketball reasons.

When zooming in and focusing on what matters between the lines of that 94′ x 50′ hardwood, the consensus seems to be that the Rockets offer Dwight the best chance to accomplish his career goals. These plusses have been discussed multiple times, but the Cliff Notes version is that the Rockets have a young superstar in James Harden, a roster of good (and young) complementary pieces, a smart GM who knows how to fill out a roster, and a head coach who was once a fantastic low post player to help Dwight develop that part of his game further (while, supposedly, running an offense to highlight that part of his game). These things are mostly all true, though some of them have been embellished slightly (more on that later).

The Lakers, meanwhile, are portrayed differently. They’re seen as old and not as talented. They’re seen as a team that can’t offer Dwight the role he wants on offense, and a team that lacks the defensive players to thrive on that side of the floor. The Lakers are billed as the team selling a combination of the past (“we’re the Lakers“) and the future (cap space in just one more year!), rather than the team that can win now. There’s some truth in this but, like the Rockets’ case, these negatives have also been embellished somewhat.

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