November 16, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Former pro basketball player "Julius Dr. J" Irving sits next to Los Angeles Lakers Mitch Kupchak during the ceremony unveiling the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Lakers Knew the Risk of Acquiring Dwight Who Never Wanted to be in L.A.

Feb 27, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak attends the NCAA basketball game between the Arizona Wildcats and the Southern California Trojans at the Galen Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

When the Lakers traded for Dwight Howard, and in the process giving up their most valuable trade chip at the time of Andrew Bynum to get him, the message from the Dwight Howard camp was clear, he didn’t want to come to Los Angeles.

 

Howard’s preference at that time was to go to the then New Jersey Nets and team up with Deron Williams. Howard was adamant about getting to the Nets but if there was a second option it was the Dallas Mavericks not the Lakers.

 

The Lakers were persistent in their pursuit and with them dangling an attractive player like Bynum in trade, they were in the best position to net the most talent for the Orlando Magic in return. At some point Howard’s camp relented and were then open to coming to the Lakers. Why not since he knew he only had to endure it for one year before he became a free agent?

 

The Lakers’ brass heard the rumblings of Howard’s hesitancy of playing along side the alpha personality of Kobe Bryant and his apprehension of following in Shaquille O’ Neal’s footsteps.

 

The Howard camp made it clear to the Lakers, and any team that traded for him, that he was going to test the free agent market and not commit to any team before that.

 

The Lakers knew all of this and traded for him anyway, banking on the historical fact that no star in his prime leaves the Lakers. They thought who in their right mind would leave the Lakers. Why wouldn’t the Lakers be so confident?

 

The Lakers have a long history of getting the star that they want.

 

A 28 year old Kareem Abdul Jabber forced a trade to the Lakers. Kareem along with Magic go on to win 5 NBA championships in the 80s.

 

Shaquille O’ Neal turned down more money from the Orlando Magic to sign with the Lakers as a free agent. Together with a young Kobe Bryant they go on to win 3 straight NBA titles.

 

When Kobe entered free agency, he flirted a little with the likes of the Clippers, but ultimately returned and helped the Lakers win 2 more championships.

 

The Lakers put their 16 championships, litany of Hall of Fame jerseys hanging from the rafters, 3 billion dollar exclusive TV rights deals and Hollywood connections on the table. Dwight Howard not impressed, folded, took his chips and went home to Houston.

 

The Lakers franchise is now in complete disarray with Howard leaving. Howard, their only young ascending star now gone, their roster is filled with aging players that are either coming off an injury or highly susceptible to one.

 

As the Lakers wait for their heads to stop spinning in disbelief from Howard’s departure, the next available free agents are coming off the boards quickly, leaving scraps such as Carlos Delfino, Andrei Kirilenko and Corey Brewer to help fill out a suddenly very thin roster.

 

Their search for the next superstar to carry the torch will be a long, painful and tiring one.

 

The much talked about cap space that the Lakers will have in 2014 where they can potentially get a star like a Lebron James or Carmelo Anthony is a pipe dream. The search for their next star will likely extend to 2015 and beyond.

 

If not for the Lakers’ hubris, they would have listened to the warning signs to stay away from the quirky minded Howard and could have cashed in on the Bynum chip for some other talent that actually would want to be a Laker, you know like most NBA players.

 

They didn’t listen. Howard is now gone and they only have themselves to blame.

 

You can reach me at the my Twitter handle, @fullcourtfern, to discuss this article, anything Lakers or NBA related, or if  you want to invite me to go grab a beer somewhere in L.A. You’re paying of course. 

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Tags: Decision Dwight Howard Free Agent Houston Rockets Los Angeles Lakers NBA

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