The Houston Rockets scored 19 points in the 2nd half against the Oklahoma City Thunder, after a 73 point 1st half. As bad as the Lakers are playing, do you still want Dwight Howard?
Let’s think of a couple of scenarios.
Imagine if Dwight Howard stayed as a Laker player. The relationship between Kobe Bryant and he wouldn’t be as tight as we would like it to be. The demands asked were high, with Kobe being pushed out of team rank by Dwight’s demands. In the minds of the Laker organization and Laker fans, Kobe will always be the number one player on the team unless another player proves otherwise. The Lakers would arguably make the playoffs (pending health of course), try to compete for a championship, and likely fall short due to a lack of harmony on and off the floor between the Lakers’ best players. Pau Gasol would have likely been traded for higher quality role players with smaller contracts. But, championship hopes would seem bleak.
Why would I say that?
Dwight Howard plays on a team with James Harden, who, at age 24, has established himself as a franchise player for the Houston Rockets. Dwight himself, is perceived as a franchise player with the contract full of zeroes to back it up. Houston as a team is full of quality, talented players, including Chandler Parsons, Terrence Jones, Jeremy Lin, and others. During the first half, they showed offensive prowess rarely seen since the 90’s Golden State Warriors with Run TMC, including Tim Hardaway, Mitch Richmond, and Chris Mullin. They pushed tempo, rarely played defense, and tried to outscore everyone off the floor. The score was 73-59 at halftime.
Dwight had a chance to reveal himself as a franchise player against the Oklahoma City Thunder. A franchise player is expected to be a playmaker, on either side of the floor, and win games when the entire team is struggling. He’s a player of tremendous magnitude, with size and athleticism that is difficult to match, and yet, couldn’t make impactful plays to regain momentum for the Houston Rockets. It was the first time where a team that scored over 70 points in the first half failed to reach 100 points by the end of the game. It was the first time there was a 54-point disparity between two halves. It was a 26 point swing; a 14-point lead at halftime that lead to a 12-point loss.
Think of the Laker scenario now. The team is injury-riddled. The team isn’t likely to make the playoffs. The team is currently headed for a lottery pick. This is unfamiliar territory for Laker fans. However, with Howard off of the team and Gasol’s contract expiring after the end of the season, no player is overpaid, and of my opinion, not even Kobe Bryant.
Essentially, there’s a chance that the Laker team could have been tied down by a franchise talent, but without the character to be impactful when the team is struggling. There were signs of this last season for the Laker team, and Kobe Bryant was the guy who fought every minute until his ACL gave out. Where was Dwight? He was looking for credit, mentioning that he shouldn’t have come back that season so early.
The Laker team has the ability to reboot the franchise in a short amount of time. This happened once before in the mid-2000’s, when the Lakers had a lottery pick to draft Andrew Bynum, no cap flexibility, and pulled off a trade for the ages to land Pau Gasol. Kobe Bryant was at his peak, and the rest is history.
Kobe Bryant isn’t at his peak, but the Lakers are in the same position as they were before. This time though, there’s no weight to keep the Lakers shackled down from making big moves. We want to see a tremendous championship window, and Kupchak has demonstrated the ability to do that.
Perhaps not retaining Dwight, was the best free agency move for the Lakers last season. It turns out that he’s not the leader that everyone is hoping he would become.