Archives For Dwight Howard

Friday Forum

Dave Murphy —  June 14, 2013

So you’ve got a car with some years on it but you’re still paying it off. And, the mileage is really stacking up. And things are starting to go wrong with it. In fact, things have been going wrong with it for a while. And you are determined not to take on more debt right now because your current load is a killer. You know that in the summer of 2014, a lot of your debt will be paid off. What do you do? Do you keep eating all the repair bills, hoping to get by until then? What about that one last cross-country trip you wanted to take with someone special? Someone that may not be around in another couple years. You don’t think the car will make that trip. What do you do?

This is essentially the challenge facing the Los Angeles Lakers. Worn-out tires, a year left on the loan and the glue still drying on a new head gasket. There may not be enough left in the tank to make a run for Kobe’s sixth ring. And then there’s the Dwight dilemma.

From Kelly Dwyer at Ball Don’t Lie, Chandler Parsons talks to Dwight, ‘a lot’.

From Eric Pincus at the LATimes: Phil Jackson tells why the Lakers’ offense should go through Dwight.

C.A. Clark at Silver Screen and Roll writes that Dwight and D’Antoni are perfect for each other.

Drew Harrison at Silver Screen and Roll examines reports of Dwight and Chris Paul’s supposed desire to play together.

From Ross Gasmer at Lakers Nation, Dwight supposedly adds the Spurs to the list.

On the Steven Lebron tumblr, Dwight Howard: In Another Life.

In non-Lakers/Dwight news, remember Jordan Farmar? Dan Feldman at ProBasketballTalk has the story.

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So back to the bloated car loan that’s coming to an end. Mitch Kupchak’s made it clear that Dwight is a priority. It’s mostly an all or nothing proposition however. The Lakers can resign Howard because of his Bird rights but can’t otherwise spend in free agency except for the mini mid-level exception and veteran minimum deals. So what happens if Dwight doesn’t return? Are there no other options apart from waiting it out? Well sure, it’s called a trade-in. You might not get your full blue book value back but you’ll get something, including a new loan or two. Ready to talk some turkey?

[Note: Tonight's post was written by Daniel Buerge, the Editor in Chief of LakersNation.com. Make sure you check him out over there and give him a follow on twitter at @DanielBuerge_LA]

Oh, the offseason. It’s a strange time for everyone. Whether it’s absurd speculation or random video clips of your favorite player talking about Desperate Housewives (is that still a thing?) on Chris Ferguson’s couch, the basketball withdrawals are frequent and take many different forms. While the season is still technically going, for Laker fans it’s long over. In fact, most people have been looking toward next season since about the third month of the last one, and now everybody else is finally catching up to them.

This offseason, however, is a little different for the Lakers. Although free agency hasn’t started yet, it seems that fans are already bracing themselves for the worst. As if prepping for a hurricane, Laker fans have boarded the doors and windows, refusing to let reality breach their consciousness. In fact, it’s worse than that now. We’ve reached the denial stage for many of Los Angeles’ most loyal followers. Somehow, in the midst of all the disappointment over the last 12 months, we’ve seen the evolution from disheartened to downright denial. Fans have begun to convince themselves that Dwight Howard isn’t the right choice for the Lakers. And that’s simply not correct.

Now, Howard didn’t have his best season in 2012-13. In fact, it could be argued that it was his worst. But that is nowhere near indicative of the kind of player Howard is. And, more importantly, how big of a drop off there is between Howard and whoever the Lakers think they’re going to replace him with.

Let’s play a little game. When the Lakers traded Shaq in 2004, they took a calculated risk. O’Neal was getting older and less productive, and they thought they might be able to match 60-70 percent of his production by using a filler player. Someone like, you know, Chris Mihm. We all remember how well that worked. See, now that’s the problem with the idea that letting Howard go isn’t going to cost the Lakers that much. Even if you believe Howard will never get back to the level he was at when he was going through Defensive Player of the Year awards like they were Pez, he’s so much better than any sort of alternative option out there that it’s foolish to believe the team will be able to plug in replacement parts and hope they can replace Howard’s production.

So, in his worst season, Dwight averaged 17.2 points, 12.5 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game.

How did the best big men in the league stack up to those numbers? Let’s look.

Brook Lopez: 19.4 PPG, 6.4 RPB, 2.1 BPG
Roy Hibbert: 11.9 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 2.6 APG
Al Jefferson: 17.9 PPG, 9.3 RPB, 1.3 BPG
Al Horford: 17.4 PPG, 10.2 RPG, 1.0 BPG
DeMarcus Cousins: 17.2 PPG, 10.1 RPG, 0.7 BPG
Chris Bosh: 16.6 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 1.4 BPG

Interesting. Suddenly Dwight isn’t looking like such a dismal prospect, is he? And, you also need to remember, these are the league’s ELITE centers. The best in the business. These are guys the Lakers aren’t going to come anywhere near acquiring if they lose out on Dwight. They’ll be more likely to land an average-type center. You know, a Chris Mihm-type. So how about those numbers? What does the statistical breakdown of the median of the center world look like in the NBA in 2013?

League Center Average: 7.1 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 0.9 RPG

I’ll save you the trouble of getting a calculator and let you know that that’s 10.1 points, 7.1 rebounds and 1.6 blocks fewer than Howard.

Basically, if you subtract Roy Hibbert from Dwight Howard you have the league average center. That’s how good Dwight’s numbers still were, in a season where he had three coaches, two injuries, and one ball-dominant shooting guard in his way. Yet, in the face of all this evidence, fans seem convinced that moving away from Howard is the way to go. Some say he doesn’t have the mental tenacity to handle life as a Laker. He doesn’t embrace the legacy.

Who cares?

As fans we’re far more romantic about all that stuff than the players. We like to idealize these situations, because to us it would be tremendous if our favorite players were as passionate about our teams as we are. But that’s not the case. In reality, players want financial security, a chance to win and a fun place to live. And, a lot of the time the first two will supersede the third (not that the Lakers have ever had to worry about that since they hit the geographic lottery).

In the end it comes down to an uncertainty about the future that is the root of all these problems. Fans are afraid. The end of the Kobe era is closer than many want to openly admit, and the guy who has to follow a legend is always seen through lenses thick with skepticism until they’re able to prove themselves. Nobody thought anybody would be able to follow Joe Montana. Then Steve Young came along. Nobody thought anybody would be able to follow Joe DiMaggio. Then some guy named Mickey Mantle showed up. Nobody thinks anyone will be able to live up to Kobe Bryant. But Dwight Howard has as good a chance as any.

And let’s not forget, nobody thought the Lakers would be able to survive after losing Baylor, West, Wilt, Kareem, Magic or Shaq either. I’m sure we all remember how that went.


*Statistics provided by HoopData.com

A Day In The Life

Dave Murphy —  June 1, 2013

I’m on the phone with an old buddy from Los Angeles and he says, “dude, you should move back here.” I answer in the most predictable of ways. “Yeah, I know. That would be awesome.” An earth-shattering statement? Hardly. Will it lead anywhere? No, it’s just a handful of words during the course of a conversation in the course of a day or a week. The words go hand-in-hand with other statements or conversations that take place in everyday life. Looks like there might be rain tomorrow. I’m going to the store for a few things. The traffic out there is brutal.

In the high-stakes game of professional sports contracts, casual conversations are given heightened importance. It’s the same in the high-stakes game of business or war and peace. Words are how we communicate and they are used, shaped and shifted to suit the occasion. The NBA free agency period doesn’t start until July 1st but the appetite for news and commentary needs to be fed. Or at least we think it does. Isn’t this why I’m typing these words? I’ll proof them and insert hyperlinks and load them into an online queue. The links of course are the blood-filled arteries that attract the hits. We want some, we want more.

The folks in Houston are wading into the discussion. It spiders out to other places which naturally includes the mega-media market where Dwight Howard currently resides. The prize free agent reportedly had a conversation with his buddy James Harden. These things do happen – people send a text, pick up a call, have a communication in some shape or form. It’s rarely on record of course so it’s posited and relayed in the most common of ways – sources close to the process told… and then we get to the heart of the matter which is usually speculation but that’s how the beast is fed, right? One guy says, “dude, you should come play here.” And the other guy says, Yeah, I know. That would be awesome.”

The Dwight saga hasn’t yet begun to approach critical mass in Los Angeles. It may yet or it may not. The Lakers center has only been here for one season and the whole crazy affair was snake-bitten from the start, ending with a first-round exit as the face of the franchise watched from the sideline on crutches. If you’re looking for a full-scale media meltdown, wait a year until Kobe’s contract expires. Bring your sharpened sticks and marshmallows – the flames will be seen around the world.

The NBA finals are still nearly a week away. The draft happens in a month. And then free agency. The need to feed the beast never expires though, it is relentless and will not be sated. Sometimes the news is of a sobering nature. Sometimes it’s a thoughtful debate about a cornerstone athlete. More often it’s simply a random catch-and-shoot. Somewhere an NBA player touches a tiny icon on his screen and smiles. “I read the news today, oh boy.”

 

Based off the evidence accumulated over the course of their careers, I have full confidence in making two pretty declarative statements:

1. Mike D’Antoni would prefer to run an offense featuring a spread pick and roll attack that generates easy shots at the rim and open three pointers around the arc.

2. Dwight Howard excels in the pick and roll, is one of the best finishers at the rim in the entire NBA, and would love to get more touches close to the rim.

Based off these two statements, from a strict X’s and O’s perspective, the Mike D’Antoni offense and the Dwight Howard skill-set are perfect matches. The goal, then, should be to find a way to maximize what both want to do while both sides show enough flexibility in order to make this partnership work. And if both sides do just that, the results will be fantastic.

The bending from both sides is actually pretty simple and straight forward once the noise and bluster is stripped away.

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To be completely honest, I can’t find the strength to get worked up over any report regarding what Dwight Howard will or won’t do when it comes to his impending free agency. I just can’t do it. We’re still only in the middle of May and free agency doesn’t begin until July 1st…there’s simply too much time left in the process to get worked up over this stuff.

That said, the very well regarded Ken Berger of CBS Sports is reporting that Dwight Howard will explore his options in free agency and that teams like the Rockets and Mavericks “intrigue” him. These are teams with good players, cap space, and other desirable traits that should intrigue Dwight. I can’t blame him, I’d be intrigued too. Again, though, I can’t get too caught up in this stuff. Not only is it early, but this is Dwight’s call to make and he can do so on his timeline. He’s earned that right.

So, rather than focus on where Dwight may (or may not) go, let’s look at a different aspect of Berger’s report. One interesting thing he mentioned was the point about compensation and Dwight’s next contract. Here’s the relevant passage:

The clear advantage for the Lakers in their effort to re-sign Howard is the 2011 collective bargaining agreement, which allows LA to give Howard a five-year deal with annual increases based on 7.5 percent of his first-year salary in a new deal — which will be in excess of $20 million. Another team with cap room to sign Howard could only give him a four-year deal with 4.5 percent annual increases — the same arrangement Howard would be limited to if he agreed to leave via a sign-and-trade.

But Howard is only 27, and barring a career-ending injury, he’ll clearly get one more max deal after this one. A four-year deal with an opt-out after three years, for example, would in some ways be preferable to Howard because he’d hit the open market again at age 30 and could then secure his five-year max deal.

The mechanics that Berger mentions are 100% spot on. The Lakers can offer a longer and richer contract. The annual raises would be larger and that 5th year in the contract the Lakers offer would be around $30 million dollars. That’s nothing to sneeze at.

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