Ok folks, Dwight Howard has committed long-term to the Houston Rockets. That means he will not be the face of the LA Lakers for the future. It means that Kobe Bryant will not be passing the torch to him in a couple years. The Lakers had every intention of rebuilding a championship team in 2014 around Howard with their soon to be loads of cap space in the free agent market. Well, half of that plan can now be scrapped. The other half is still very much alive.
When Howard was traded to the Lakers last August, Kobe was one of the first to chime in on Facebook; “Superman has a new home, and the Lakers have a new future, someone I can pass the torch to when I hang them up in a couple years” (I’m paraphrasing). With Howard gone, this got me thinking; what made Houston so appealing to him? Among other factors, I remember hearing throughout the season how various members of the Rockets (James Harden, Chandler Parsons, etc.) were semi-openly recruiting him to sign there in the off-season, and it worked. Harden had developed a friendship with Howard through Team USA, and wanted his friend to be his team-mate. Players recruiting players. Kobe knows his days as an elite NBA player are very much numbered, and that he will need to pass the torch to a successor sooner rather than later. It’s time for him to serve the Lakers in a new role; recruiter. What better way to bring in the new face of the franchise than to have the current face recruit them?
The 2014 NBA free agent class could potentially include such franchise players as LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade, John Wall, and Kyrie Irving, amongst others. The Lakers are set up to have $50 million + in cap space. That equals at least two max contracts. Now, while I do not expect all those players to jump at the chance to don the purple & gold, it doesn’t hurt to think big. Kobe has strong relationships developed over the years with a handful of those players (most notably James & Anthony, whom he has referred to as “brothers”). If Kobe really wants to help set up his Lakers for the future in the best way possible, now is as good a time as any to start talking to those guys. Howard wasn’t open at all to the idea of joining Houston until he friends there started putting the idea in his head.
Kobe is an MVP, 2X NBA Finals MVP, 5X champion, and has a laundry list of accomplishments. He is one of the all time greats, and not only the face of the LA Lakers for the past 15 years, but of the NBA in general. He is his generation’s Michael Jordan. When he talks, people listen. His resume commands respect. As I am writing this, I can’t help but think of Danny Ocean in OCEAN’S 11; a master thief recruiting a super-team to help him pull off one last heist, as well as further their own reputations. All Kobe needs to do is pick up