Archives For Dwight Howard

Free agency begins in earnest at midnight Eastern, 9pm PST today. Teams will reach out to the players they covet, schmoozing will commence, and decisions will, eventually, be made.

For the Lakers, the biggest priority is what happens with Dwight Howard. Let’s summarize what we know to this point:

*Dwight plans to meet with at least 5 teams. The Rockets, Mavericks, Hawks, Warriors and the Lakers.

*The Rockets will be first, flying into Los Angeles to meet with Dwight tonight at the crack of free agency. They plan to bring the entire city of Houston their owner Les Alexander, GM Darryl Morey, head coach Kevin McHale, Hakeem, Clyde Drexler, James Harden, and Chandler Parsons.

*The Mavericks will supposedly get first crack on Monday, followed by meetings with the other, non-Lakers, teams.

*The Lakers, at their request, will go last in this process. Likely meeting with Dwight on Tuesday.

*The latest reports out of Dwight’s camp are that winning is the most important thing to him and that there is no “favorite” in the process at this point. He’s said to have an open mind towards the teams and that he wants to gather information to make the best decision in terms of where he can win multiple championships.

*That latest report also states that Dwight will not ask the Lakers to fire Mike D’Antoni with hints that even if he did ask, the Lakers wouldn’t move on from their head coach.

With all this in mind, let’s quickly handicap the race. Of the 5 suitors, I think it’s easiest to eliminate the Hawks and the Warriors from the top tier of contenders at this early stage. The Hawks are furthest away from being a contending team and it’s been reported before that Dwight isn’t keen on playing in his hometown. As for the Warriors, they don’t have the cap space to sign Dwight outright and would need the Lakers to participate in a sign and trade for then to acquire him. This doesn’t mean that can’t happen down the road, but being that the Lakers would have to agree to make this deal it puts them on the back burner for now, and potentially for this entire process. What’s more likely with the Warriors is that they’re in this mix to show that they’re a FA destination down the line and it likely means more to them to even get this meeting as a signal to the league that they’re for real heading into next summer rather than a meaningful grab for Howard’s services.

This leaves the Rockets, Mavs, and Lakers. All have their pros and cons, and I think it can go either way between any of them.

The Mavs actually have a similar situation to offer as the Lakers: they have an aging franchise anchor, an owner willing to spend on a winner, and cap space galore coming up within the next couple of seasons. This has its appeals, but to be honest, they’re likely 3rd in this race unless Dwight really loves Dallas as a city and/or Cuban as an owner and/or the idea of playing for Rick Carlisle (which are all possible).

The Rockets, meanwhile offer a young roster with an up and coming star player and solid role players to complement. Their cap situation will be cleaner in the summer of 2015 when Asik and Lin’s contracts come off the books and they’ll need to renounce/waive/trade some talented players (one or more of Carlos Delfino, Aaron Brooks, Francisco Garcia, Thomas Robinson) to get far enough under the cap to offer a full max contract. This is a very good basketball situation for Howard, but I think it’s being oversold somewhat as a place where the Rockets are so much better off from a talent standpoint than other teams. What they have are young players that can grow with Dwight by their side. But last season they were the 8th seed and will actually lose some of the contributors who made achieving at that level possible. They have a ton of plusses, but at this point some of those are being oversold.

As for the Lakers, we know what they have to offer. Of all the teams they have the best history of success, offer the best market, and the most money/longest contract. The last point is mitigated somewhat by the fact it’s believed Dwight will opt out of whatever contract he signs in the next two weeks in order to secure another max deal in either 3 or 4 seasons. This makes the financial difference in contracts much less. However, what’s not being mentioned often enough is that if Dwight really does opt out, the Lakers can pay him a max extension just like any other team he signs with so there’s not a benefit of moving on in that scenario. Also, there’s the point that, in the past, the Lakers have made balloon salary payments to superstar players up front. This type of payment can be banked by the player in order accrue interest that can then offset the higher state taxes in California. I’ve read that the Lakers have done this for Shaq and for Kobe. It’s quite possible they’d do it for Dwight as well.

In essence, I still believe this comes down to the Lakers or the Rockets. Which way he leans after this process is done will come down to factors that, even if we believe the reports about winning, only Dwight will truly know. I’m still very hopeful he signs with the Lakers. We’ll know for sure within the next 10 days.

Dwight, of course, isn’t the only relevant news. The Lakers still need help on the wing and, potentially, in the back court heading into next season. Consider the following:

*On Saturday, the Lakers waived Chris Duhon to save on his salary for next season. By waiving him, the Lakers pay him only $1.5 million of the $4 million he was owed.

*As we’ve mentioned, the Lakers didn’t make qualifying offers Darius Morris, Andrew Goudelock, or Devin Ebanks. I don’t expect any of them to be back next year, though that could change.

*Earl Clark is an unrestricted free agent. He’s said he wants to return to the Lakers and even hinted he’d take less money to do so, but he will have suitors on the open market and typically the money wins out in those situations.

*Antawn Jamison is an unrestricted free agent and there’s a good chance he doesn’t return.

Without those 6 players (and potentially Dwight Howard), the Lakers only have Nash, Kobe, Ron, Pau, Hill, Blake, Meeks, and Sacre under contract. That’s 8 players. Typically the Lakers carry either 13 or 14 on their roster. They need bodies to fill out this team and hopefully some ones that fill specific needs.

Of those needs, the biggest is help on the wing in the form of defense and/or shooting (and preferably both). There are players who check off one or both of these boxes including Kyle Korver, Dorell Wright, Corey Brewer, OJ Mayo, Nick Young, Marco Belinelli, Francisco Garcia, Carlos Delfino, Matt Barnes, Tony Allen, Mike Dunleavy, Ronnie Brewer, JR Smith, JJ Redick, Wes Johnson, Martell Webster, and several others. Some of these guys will be in the Lakers’ price range. Some will be way beyond it. The market will sort these things out and there will be options.

What I’m interested in seeing is the timing in which the Lakers try to fill these needs. Dwight is the big fish and typically that means he will be the first domino to fall in the Lakers’ equation. Plus, when it comes to lower tiered FA’s like those the team will be looking for there’s typically not a lot of harm in waiting to sign one (or more) of them. That said, the Lakers don’t meet with Dwight until Tuesday and there’s something to be said for trying to acquire one of your targets early, especially if that player could help make the team better (which in turn could help in the recruiting of Dwight).

Ultimately, though, we’ll know a lot more in the next few days. Sit tight, the ride will probably be a wild one.

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?

REY: Tacky.

ZEPHID: Fluffy.

DAVE: Searching.

PHILLIP: Bizarre.

RYAN: Brilliant.

UPDATE: With their pick at #48, the Lakers selected Duke, PF Ryan Kelly. Kelly is coming off his senior year at Duke where he averaged 12.9 points and 5.3 rebounds per game over 23 appearances. Kelly suffered a foot injury late in the season and missed both the ACC and the NCAA Tournament. He’s now recovering from foot surgery and is nearing the end of his rehab.

As for his game, Kelly is more of a face up player with a perimeter oriented game. He shot 42% from behind the arc in his senior season and 45% from the field overall. From his Draft Express Profile:

He lacks elevation on his jumper, but his consistent mechanics and a quick release, allow him to get his shot off without hesitation and with impressive accuracy. He was one of the top perimeter shooters in the NCAA last season, making an impressive 40% of his 4.7 attempts per 40 minutes pace adjusted. His shooting touch translates into an outstanding 81% shooting from the free throw line, as well.

Additionally, he has a diverse face-up game. Thanks to his above average ball-handling ability, he is able to operate very well out of the high post, taking his man off the dribble on his way to the basket. While he struggles to power the ball to the rim, he compensates with a finesse game including running hook shots, floaters, and layups. Furthermore, he has developed an intriguing mid-range arsenal based around his proficiency as a pull-up jump shooter.

At this point, Kelly looks to be very much a pick made for his offensive game because his weaknesses — strength, athleticism, and lateral quickness — all limit his ability on the other side of the floor. Again, from his draft profile:

Though Kelly is a very engaged defender with good instincts and awareness, his physical deficiencies stand out at this level and will most certainly be a problem at the next. In particular, his underwhelming lateral quickness and footspeed make him a liability away from the basket where he struggles to close out on perimeter shooters and is easily beaten off of the dribble by quicker players. At 6-11, he may be better off defending centers in the NBA, but does he have the strength to contain them in the post?

We’ll have more on this pick tomorrow, but my quick take is that it looks as if Kelly is a guy who should fit well in Mike D’Antoni’s system as a stretch PF who can play on the weak side as a spot up shooter and draw a secondary big man away from the hoop defensively. And while his offensive skill set is limited, players like him can carve a niche for themselves in the NBA should their shot fall with enough consistency to be a threat offensively. Defensively, of course, is another question and it remains to be seen if a player with limited tools on that end of the floor can play well enough both as an individual and in the team’s scheme to not be a total liability.

The NBA Draft is finally here. And while the Lakers only have the 48th pick, that doesn’t mean there aren’t some good options to explore or that they won’t swing for the fences and find that diamond in the rough. It also wouldn’t surprise me if the Lakers try to move up in some way to try and grab an extra pick, be it a 1st round selection or another 2nd round pick that comes before their own selection mid-way through the Adam Silver portion of the evening.

As for other news of the day, there are a few things to report both Lakers and from around the league:

*The latest on the Dwight Howard front is that he’s leaning towards not returning to the Lakers. Chris Broussard reports that Dwight’s preference is to go to either Houston or Dallas and that while the Lakers can’t be counted out, they are the underdog to retain his services. While this report only confirms what many have already thought about Howard’s mindset, I still take reports like this with a grain of salt. If there’s a time to exert any leverage in a situation this is it, so the timing of the leak smells like an angle to get something done that will make the situation more amiable to allow a return. After all, if Dwight was simply going to leave, there’s no sense in even speaking of what his plans are.

*The Celtics are looking to continue their off-season overhaul that’s already seen them trade head coach Doc Rivers to the Clippers by trying to trade Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to the Nets. While the deal isn’t done, it’s said that talks between the two teams have momentum and that something could be done by the end of the night. In return for their two hall of fame players, the C’s would get multiple first round picks and some of the bloated salaries the Nets have on their books (potentially Gerald Wallace and Kris Humphries).

*There are lots of reports about teams in the top half of the draft wanting to move out of their current spots. The Cavs are supposedly still undecided on who they’d select in the #1 slot and are still interested in trading the pick. Depending on what the Cavs do with their pick, the Magic could also trade their pick and there are several teams looking to move up into the top 5 in order to secure the player they like best in class in which the differences between the top 5 or 6 players is more about preference and the position they play rather than a gap in talent.

*Don’t be surprised if there are some quality veteran players traded tonight. We’ve already mentioned Garnett and Pierce, but a guy like Eric Gordon could be on the move as could other players who still have value on the open market but have fallen out of favor with their current teams. Draft night is when teams would love to reshape their roster and that goes beyond simply selecting the top amateur on their big board when their pick comes up.

We’ll have more updates as the night goes on, including whatever the Lakers do whenever they do it. For now, have at it in the comments about who the Lakers should take and the other news of the day.

Just a few quick updates to toss out. As always on draft day, there’s plenty of action around the league with teams maneuvering for position including roster home cleaning. With only the #48 pick, a big payroll and limited trade options, it’s doubtful that Mitch can move up the charts in a major way but you never know – the Lakers war room will be well-stocked with extra cell batteries and bottomless cups of coffee.

According to Silver Screen & Roll, the Lakers declined to pick up the options of Chris Duhon and Devin Ebanks. Neither is a surprise, especially when it comes to Ebanks, a once-promising prospect who fell out of favor this past season due in no small part to his lackadaisical conditioning routine. Backup big Robert Sacre has reportedly received the team’s qualifying offer.

Speaking of SS&R, here’s their draft day template from Drew Garrison with great info and updates.

From Chris Broussard at ESPN, it’s “very, very unlikely” that Dwight Howard will return to the Lakers. This could be a bit of ratchet-up hyperbole on a day when the NBA media blitz scrambles for breaking items but it should at least be mentioned – we’ll see if the story picks up some serious legs.

Draft Express runs one of the top sites and feeds it all year long with great news and analysis on high school can college prospects. Here’s their current mock draft which shows Archie Goodwin at the #48 slot.

Here’s the ESPN GO draft board with the various Chad Ford picks. If you dig deep enough you might be able to find something about the second round. It’s pretty driven by the lottery.

Mike Bresnahan of the LATimes writes an overview of draft day for the Lakers, noting that they’re unlikely to make a splash.

We’ll all keep our eyes and ears open heading into tonight’s Barclay’s Center extravaganza. Add your own links and tidbits in the comments. Maybe the Lakers nab a solid option at the point or swing position. Maybe they sign someone you’ve never heard of before. Always a thrill ride toward the back of the second round.

 

 

In the annals of NBA history, no franchise has more persistently, or more successfully, taken a Babe Ruthian approach to personnel decisions than the Lakers. Sure, Mikan, West, Baylor, Goodrich, Magic, Worthy, Cooper, A.C. Green and, for all intents and purposes, Byron Scott and Kobe Bryant, head a mind-blowing assembly of talent for whom every meaningful NBA moment has unfolded in Laker garb, but every era of Laker glory has hinged upon management’s ability to swing for the fences.

In 1968, with Elgin Baylor and Jerry West approaching their still-ringless twilights, the most dominant big man in NBA history was added to the mix. Three conference titles and Los Angeles’ first banner later, and the legendary trio having departed the Association, the Lakers’ brass once again took to the market and returned with, get this, the NBA’s most dominant big man. Despite kicking off with a few (by Lakers standards) lean years, it’s probably fair to state that Kareem’s tenure in forum blue and gold was a relative success. In the 90s, what ought to have been a smooth transition out of Showtime and into Magic Johnson’s twilight was preempted, when the HIV virus forced the GLoAT from the game. A few more “lean” years (the worst of times still saw the Lakers nearly become the first #8 seed to upset a #1, the selections of Nick Van Exel and Eddie Jones and a playoff series victory over Payton-Kemp Sonics), and…

Blah, blah, blah, most dominant big man of his (and perhaps all-) time, yeah, yeah.

ALL of that, and there is a case to be made that last summer’s (Seriously. How. The. Hell. has it not even been a year?) additions of Steve Nash and (at least at the time) the NBA’s most dominant big man represented the most euphoric offseason Lakerland has ever seen.

HOWEVAH…

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