The Houston Rockets officially announced the signing of Dwight Howard and introduced their newly acquired star center at a press conference yesterday. Everybody at the presser from the Houston organization was giddy and why not, they not only got the player that they coveted this off-season and who they believe will lead them to a championship one day, they also got him for absolutely nothing.
No they didn’t have to give up Chandler Parsons. He was one of the many Rockets that joined in on the festivities in greeting Howard on Saturday.
No Thomas Robinson. He was traded to the Portland Trailblazers in a move to free up cap space to offer Howard a max deal.
No Terrence Jones, or Isaiah Canaan, or draft picks. The Rockets kept them all for themselves.
Not even a trade exception that the Lakers could have used to acquire a player later in the year, such as how they acquired Steve Nash last season.
The Lakers got squat.
The Rockets didn’t need to help the Lakers as they made the moves necessary to acquire Howard without the Lakers help; however, this was only after the Lakers’ front office numerous missteps to get to this point which I will illustrate here:
1. Trading for Dwight in the first place:
When in Orlando, Howard made it clear, he didn’t want to come to Los Angeles and would not re-sign or commit to any team that traded for him. Reports were he didn’t want to follow in Shaq’s footsteps or play with the dominant personality of Kobe Bryant. The Lakers didn’t listen, were overly confident that they could change Howard’s mind and traded away their biggest trade chip in Andrew Bynum to get him. That’s Lakers strike one.
2. Not trading Howard at the trading deadline
From the outset you saw it in Howard’s body language on the court that he was not happy in a Lakers uniform. When Howard tried to have fun and exhibit his boyish qualities on the court and in the locker room, he was killed by the Los Angeles media, fans, and former/current Lakers players.
Howard’s personality didn’t mesh with that of Kobe Bryant; it all came to head during a team meeting in January where reportedly Bryant confronted Howard in a very aggressive manner. Despite all of this transpiring before the trading deadline and the Lakers front office being privy to the unrest occurring in the locker room relating to Howard, they stubbornly stood pat. That’s strike two.
3. Taking the hard stance that they would not sign-and-trade Howard.
The Lakers still had an opportunity to mitigate their losses and get something of value for Howard after the season ended by working out a sign and trade. Instead of being open and possibly even working with NBA teams on acquiring something in return in trade for Howard, the Lakers dug in their heels and announced through the media that they would not participate in a sign and trade for Howard. The Lakers front office officially took the all or nothing stance on Howard.
Steve Nash recently revealed his level of confidence of re-signing Howard going into the meeting where the Lakers made their pitch for him to stay.
“Frankly, I thought before the meeting, we didn’t really have a chance” Nash said during an interview with ESPN LA 710 radio
“Dwight had some issues with the season,” Nash added. “I think it kind of basically goes with what he said to the media that he never quite felt embraced inL.A.He never quite felt supported. That’s basically it. I think in some ways you can read into that what you will, but I think he never quite felt comfortable at home and I don’t know if that’s anybody’s fault.”
If Nash knew that they “didn’t have a chance” didn’t the Lakers front office know that as well? Of course they did and they knew it all along, but they decided to continue to gamble with Howard anyway.
That’s the Lakers front office taking a big embarrassing whiff for their 3rd strike.
So who is the one in the Lakers organization taking the walk of shame from the batters box to the dugout?
Is it Mitch Kupchak? Jim Buss?
There in lies the problem with the Lakers, we don’t know.
When things go wrong with an organization there should someone that we can point finger at; someone that takes the blame, or credit, for the direction of an organization.
Those on the outside don’t really know how the influence on basketball decisions is distributed. From previous interviews with Kupchak and Buss have stated that they work together on all decisions, but really don’t reveal who has the overriding vote and just how much influence each voice has within these collaborative workings.
Decisions can not be made collectively unless all parties always come to the same determination which is rarely the case. When there are dissenting opinions there has to be someone that has the overriding vote.
Who has that overriding vote for the Lakers and was it used in this Dwight Howard debacle? Were both Kupchak and Buss on the same page? Who screwed up here? We might never really know.
But we do know a few things today. Howard is gone, the Lakers got nothing for him and by the look on everybody face on the Houston Rockets photo opp yesterday that they are very, very happy, all at the Lakers expense.
Never in my time have I seen another organization get over on the Lakers like the Rockets just did, but with Dr. Buss gone, this a new era for the front office of the Lakers.
Hopefully this can be chalked up to just getting off to a bad start or the famous and very comforting “you win some, you lose some”.
Hopefully it will be the Lakers that are the ones laughing in the end.
Hopefully the Lakers brass will lead the Lakers roaring back to the top once again. Whoever within that brass it might be.
That’s the new tagline for the new era of the Lakers: Hopefully.
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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