The Los Angeles Lakers don’t know how to cope with losing but to go out and sign the best player available, but with Kobe Bryant chewing up most of the cap space and Mike D’Antoni taking nothing but shots for his defensive coaching abilities and even his once often-praised offensive system, it seems Dwight Howard rejecting their offer to stay has left a much deeper scar than anyone thought it would.
We keep hearing how the NBA is a business, and everyone knows what they’re getting into. But Howard made the right professional choice by going to Houston, in a league that doesn’t exactly breed loyalty feelings between players and teams. It’s all about winning and money, but it seems that choosing winning over money isn’t as valued as it once was, with players who do that (LeBron James, Howard, Ray Allen) get treated by their former fanbases like someone who took the easy way out.
Back to the Lakers, who counted on Howard to stay, relying on their heritage, instead of present and future. The personal attacks on Howard from Bryant, former Lakers and now also Mike D’Antoni, who’s mostly trying to make himself and his coaching abilities look a little bit better than people gave him credit for are based on only one thing: They don’t know how to handle losing, especially when it involves free agency.
The Lakers’ present situation is terrible. They’ve made some decent signings with Nick Young, Chris Kaman and Wesley Johnson. If Kobe Bryant is going to come back as soon as the rumors suggest he is , then you can call them a playoff team. But if not, then the Lakers are in very deep trouble, and might be headed towards their worst season since Shaquille O’Neal left them.
Even with a healthy Bryant, assuming he keeps on scoring on a pace of 25 points per game and doesn’t break down along the way, there’s no one to play defense on this team. Not in the paint, as Pau Gasol is a lot less formidable than he was two years ago when it comes to stopping attacks, and not on the perimeter, with Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant and probably Wesley Johnson playing most of the minutes.
Mike D’Antoni? It’s hard to believe he’s suddenly going to change what he is, which is an offensive coach who loves a fast paced team. But unfortunately, he doesn’t have the right kind of players to run that system successfully in Los Angeles, as we saw last year with a better team than he has right now.
With all that bad news to swallow, it’s easy to blame Howard for his own personal “faults”, which in this case if preferring to play somewhere else. It’s easier than looking within, and realizing they have the wrong coach, for an old, unbalanced and badly put together team, with a superstar that might not be the attraction the Lakers hoped he would be, instead antagonizing and driving away other superstars who don’t want to feel like they’re being compared to him all the time.