Apr 28, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard (12) leaves the court after being ejected with two technical fouls against the San Antonio Spurs in game four of the first round of the 2013 NBA playoffs at the Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Maths and Minimalism: If Dwight Howard Leaves

Reports say Dwight Howard may not re-sign. Reports also say that the Lakers are not interested in a sign and trade. The arithmetic is not too hard on this one: reports say the Lakers will be left with nothing.

Sure you can count Nash and his bad back, Kobe and his torn Achilles or Metta World Peace and his children’s book. You can even count Pau Gasol – in the hope that his “black swan” re-emerges, sporting a new pair of “big boy pants.”

But really, the Lakers would be left with nothing. Even their over-sized coaching staff has been chopped down.

I, for one, don’t think this subtraction would be so bad. Don’t get me wrong, I want the Lakers to win. But I trust in the franchise. The way the current CBA is constructed, the Lakers can’t just “be” and thus win titles. Mistakes will be more permanently damaging. With this CBA, they can’t afford everyone. But they can survive losing Dwight.

Here’s the thing. talent-wise, they probably won’t get much better than Dwight Howard – for the future or the present. But this up-coming season might be a write-off already. It’s the cold truth.

Bryant shouldn’t rush back. If he arrives as a Christmas present, or even a belated one, I wouldn’t be too concerned. There isn’t much tread left on his career anyway, so he may as well make sure he’s at his most capable for a shorter burst than battling for a longer – but still short in relativity – amount of time. Shed of their leading scorer and Dwight Howard, they figure to be bad.

This Lakers core had been good for a while. In the late-2000’s, the Lakers and Celtics both added pieces and became contenders overnight. Those teams had short windows, with Boston’s aging core being even shorter. The team in green now figures to have an ugly rebuild or a stagnant team going nowhere. The purple and gold tried to restock mid-air and crash landed miserably or spectacularly depending on your rooting interests. Rather than hold on to the burning cockpit, the Lakers could see this as an opportunity.

The Spurs, finalists again, show an example of how to capitalize on the injury of a star player. Without an injury to David Robinson, Duncan and his five titles may be elsewhere. I’m not advocating tanking, no franchise, let alone the proud Lakers, should ever truly tank. But maybe they luck into a high-lottery pick. That’s an interesting opportunity. It’s also a potentially exciting one. This team could use an injection of youth. It would be fun to have our own talent, developed in-house. It’s what makes Kobe, Magic and Jerry West such deities in the eyes of Laker fans. At the very least it wouldn’t be worse than another Dwight-mare.

In truth, what really appeals to me about being left with nothing, is the ability to start afresh. With the books relatively clean in 2014 it’s not about getting LeBron, it’s about getting pieces that fit. They could find pieces that add up to a whole greater than the sum of their parts.

The pieces didn’t quite mesh this time. There was too much new and too much old and too much everything. It was a team of excess. With too much ego, too many injuries, too many years on the clock, too many personalities. All put together too soon.
Perhaps a sort of minimalism is required. It’s an approach the Lakers have never really taken before. They’ve never needed to. But they have also never existed within the confines of this CBA.

I don’t want Dwight to leave. At his best, I think he is the number one center in the league. But if the reports add up, you can’t escape arithmetic. And we should start preparing ourselves mentally in case the reports are true. If they are, we should see the positives. Hopefully, they will be able to revamp the team in a year and be ready for a full season of Kobe.  Even if it is done in a year, the rebuild can be done more slowly, more methodically and more thoughtfully than the last restock. And that could be winning equation.

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Tags: Basketball Dwight Howard Kobe Bryant Los Angeles Lakers NBA Pau Gasol

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