Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports
For the record I was never a Dwight Howard guy. Never thought he could handle all that comes with being a Laker. Never thought he was serious about wanting to play for a true title contender. To me, Howard always has and always will be a million-dollar talent with a hundred-dollar desire to be one of the greats.
That said there was not a doubt in my mind that the Lakers couldn’t build around Andrew Bynum so if Mitch Kupchak could pry the indecisive diva from Orlando then that was the best move possible. Obviously Howard’s performance for the Lakers has been highly questionable but at least he’s playing. Bynum can’t stay out of bowling alleys so he can’t get on the court in Philly.
Having played just one half of his first season in Los Angeles and with the Lakers well below expectations the rumblings of the Kupchak hitting the eject button has already begun. In fact there is word spreading that the Brooklyn Nets are back in the picture. Here we go again…
With D12 clearly unhappy playing for Mike D’Antoni and perhaps equally unhappy playing with Kobe Bryant there is reason to believe he’ll depart once the season ends. That would leave the Lakers with a massive hole in the middle and yet another wasted trade. Ramon Session he isn’t but Howard leaving after playing just one half of a season would be another stain on Jim Buss’ already ugly resume.
Long before D’Antoni destroyed any hopes of title contention Howard was already on the record saying he was going to test the free agency waters regardless of the outcome of this season. Recently delusional Jim Buss said he felt there was a “95% chance” Howard would re-sign.
Right about now it looks more like there’s a 5% chance Howard will stay.
To date D’Antoni has done absolutely nothing to adjust his style to the team’s talents. That has certainly affected Howard as his role continues to be reduced with each passing game it seems. Monday in Chicago Howard was a complete non-factor taking only 5 shots while getting a view from bench in the fourth quarter. Afterwards his sulking said it all.
Howard is unhappy playing for D’Antoni. He looks very out of place in Los Angeles where fans are more demanding and the media is much more critical. Most of all he looks likely to want to move on and put this all behind him.
So that leaves Kupchak and the Lakers with a big decision to make. Either allow Howard to finish out this lost season in hopes you can re-sign him during the offseason or cut your losses now and try to get something in return for a half-season rental.
For me, I say it is time to move on. Even with Howard as the building block there are too many other factors to be taken into consideration for the Lake Show with regards to thinking long term. Kobe and Steve Nash are nearing the end of their careers. Pau Gasol may never be the same again and this roster has absolutely no young talent whatsoever to speak of. All the draft picks lost in the trades for Gasol, Sessions and Nash have crippled the front office with regards to laying a new foundation.
Hate to say this but letting Howard walk can and will put the Lakers in a place they’ve never been – the world of rebuilding. Time to admit defeat and move on. Kupchak’s assertion that the problem is the effort and not the coaching is laughable. For Buss to feel “95%” certain he’ll be able to convince Howard to stay is Lennay Kekua talk. This franchise needs a fresh start and moving Howard is just the incident to kick-start that process.