When Dwight Howard left the Lakers, only a fool would tell you that he didn’t leave a bit of sting with the Lakers. It’s a fact that he’s the first “big” free agent in almost 20 years to spurn the Lakers in the manner he did. The Lakers, hell Los Angeles, wasn’t used to losing a superstar talent. Hell, they’re not used to losing period when it comes to the Lakers (sorry Clippers).
What Howard did leave in Los Angeles was a lot of uncertainty and questions. Was Howard’s loss the sign of the future? Did free agents care about the history of the Lakers? Could the Lakers adapt to the younger generation of talent?
The answer then and now is a resound yes.
Wants some evidence? Take a look at the three signings the Lakers have made this off-season in Chris Kaman, Jordan Farmar, and Nick Young. Last season, Kaman made $8 million. This year, he takes a pay cut down to $3.1 million. Jordan Farmar had a lucrative contract overseas in Turkey, worth about $5-6 million depending on where you look over his last two seasons. He also happily took a pay cut to the vets minimum, which is $884,293. And today, Nick Young went from a $5.6 million deal in Philadelphia to the vets minimum himself, totaling at $1.2 million.
Clearly, players are willing to make sacrifices to come to Los Angeles. You want to tell me the aura of playing in the gold and yellow Lakers jersey doesn’t mean something to this generation of players? PLEASE. This generation watched the twilight of Magic’s career, which faded into the early days of Shaq and Kobe. You mean to tell me all those championships still don’t resonate with them? Even during their playing days, the Lakers have three Finals appearances and two titles in the last six years.
Players want to play in LA. Success comes when you play with the Lakers. Take Bill Simmons, the ultimate Celtics fan and Laker hater, who talked about the Lakers success in his most recent post:
Since they moved to Southern California in 1960, they’ve won 63.3 percent of their games, appeared in 25 Finals, missed the playoffs just four times, and never won fewer than 30 games. They haven’t picked higher than 10th with their own pick since 1975, when they selected Dave Meyers second and promptly traded him in a megadeal for Kareem. No professional sports franchise has been this consistently good for this long: not the Yankees, not the Canadiens, not the Steelers, not anybody.
This isn’t being cocky, this isn’t being arrogant, and this isn’t bragging. It’s facts. You can hope and pray that we fail, and you just may have that wish fulfilled this season, but we are the Lakers, and we always will be.