Kobe Bryant

It seems that all those Los Angeles Lakers of past and present taking personality shots at Dwight Howard, from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant, have a hard time distinguishing between a great and successful franchise, which the Los Angeles Lakers obviously are, and a great NBA team, which at the moment, and for the last couple of seasons, the Lakers clearly aren’t.

Instead of talking about what was wrong with the team last season (and Kobe Bryant’s uber-dominance is included in that long list of faults), it’s easier to simply say Howard isn’t cut out to be a leader on this kind of team. Not that he was ever given the opportunity. Frankly, it doesn’t really matter if it’s true or not.

Steve Nash was the only one who spoke with a calm mind and heart about Howard’s time in LA. He didn’t make innuendos about him being less than a great player, he just said that Howard didn’t want to play in the pick & roll as much, preferring to get the ball as much as possible in the post, and generally didn’t buy in to the system Mike D’Antoni and the Lakers were trying to run. Earlier in the season, right before Mike Brown was fired, the Lakers kept talking about the Princeton system, which didn’t last very long.

Falls from grace are painful, and the Lakers have been on this course for three years, since winning the NBA title in 2010. Getting swept by the Mavericks in 2011, losing decisively to the younger & faster Oklahoma City Thunder. It was all leading up to the point of big decisions. The Lakers aren’t about mediocrity, or at least do not attempt to go that way. It’s always big, it’s always about reaching for the highest star.

Dwight Howard Lakers

The people who have called the shots for most of the last 38 years knew what they were doing, and despite some seasons of underachieving, there’s a reason they’ve missed the playoffs only twice over the last 38 seasons. Things have changed, people have changed, and the decision making, which was the worst case of gambling last season, turned from worse to almost the worst, if there was no Michael Jordan running things in the NBA.

And now they take it all out on Dwight, instead of getting introspective, and mentioning the bad coaching decisions, which include letting Kobe Bryant do whatever he wants on the floor (Which has nothing to do with a system or offensive scheme), gambling the future on old and injured legs and refusing to use the amnesty clause on who is really a burden on the salary cap (Pau Gasol, Kobe Bryant) for some false sense of loyalty that doesn’t have a place in the NBA, or for the reason of simply mis-evaluating talent and prospects.

The Lakers don’t know what it’s like to be turned down, but when a player looks at his option and the main thing that interests him is winning in the next three years, they weren’t the first or second best option for Dwight Howard. It’s hard to feel like all the others in the NBA, and in hindsight, this might all be David Stern’s fault for vetoing the Chris Paul trade, but it doesn’t matter at this point, with the Lakers hoping big names don’t overlook them once again in the summer of 2014, which should be a lot heavier in talent, both in free agency and the draft.

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