The Los Angeles Lakers recent #StayD12 campaign has come under fire not only by fans of other teams, but by fans of the Los Angeles Lakers. Some say the Lakers shouldn’t have to beg players to say, others think Dwight Howard isn’t worth the effort.
At best, those statements are ironic. At worst, they’re hypocritical. And we’re closer to the latter than the former.
You see, just this time last year when it was clear Howard wasn’t staying with the Magic, Lakers fans around the world were begging with Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak to do whatever it took to bring Howard to LA. At the time, Howard was seen as the future of a Lakers franchise that was full of aging stars.
Fast forward a year and what do we have? An older team, full of more aging stars, more desperate for a young centerpiece for the future. Despite coming back early from back surgery, Howard competed well for the Lakers, thriving after the All-Star break with more Howard-like numbers of 18.4 points, 13.6 rebounds, and 2.6 blocks a game.
Despite that, we have a fan base who is calling for the Lakers to move on, that Howard isn’t who we thought he was, and that we’d be better off testing our luck in the summer of 2014.
Well I’m tired of hearing about 2014. Since the day Kupchak revealed that the Lakers intentionally set up their payroll to allow maximum flexibility next summer, fans have been rabid about waiting for the possibility of a LeBron, Wade, or Carmelo to join the team. But nothing suggests that these guys might opt out, that they may turn their back on their current team, or that they might prefer the Lakers.
What I do know is that right here, right now, is a franchise-altering player who IS considering the Lakers. He’s someone who could be our centerpiece for the future. He’s not a prospective person in the undetermined future. He’s a tangible body who has a vested interest in staying a Los Angeles Laker.
Yet, as the Lakers pull out all the stops with their #StayD12 campaign and their meeting with Howard, the fans sit back and criticize the teams front office. If this were LeBron or Melo, would you criticize the team? Instead, we’re focused on tearing down a man who played a full season despite not being any where near 100%, yet still put up All-NBA 1st team numbers.
Right now, Dwight Howard’s decision in the summer of 2013 has more of an impact on the summer of 2014 than anything else, and should be treated as such. Howard is a man who wants to feel wanted. He’s not a man who will be “wooed” by stories of past Lakers triumphs. He isn’t a man who cares about the lore of being a Los Angeles Lakers. He’s a man who wants teams to put up billboards for him, to take out full page ads about him, and to bring in high profile people to meet with him.
You want high profile free agents to be interested in the Lakers in 2014? It starts with Dwight Howard. What’s more appealing than having the league’s best center locked up under contract for the foreseeable future? It’s not appealing to have one old, breaking down point guard on your roster.
So Lakers fans, do yourselves a favor and start praising Dwight Howard. He’s a man who will determine how our future is shaped whether you want him or not.