Despite not having the best of seasons, Dwight Howard is still the biggest name hitting free agency in 2013, and it seems he has already narrowed down his options to a couple of teams. It’s either staying with the Los Angeles Lakers, or leaving to the Houston Rockets, with the Dallas Mavericks presumably off the table for him.
Howard averaged only 17.1 points per game while grabbing 12.4 rebounds, as his minutes dropped to 35.8. He missed some games with shoulder problems although he came back early from both that issue and his off-season back problem, which some suggested has effected his ability on both offense and defense.
For Howard, there’s more to factor in than just money. It’s the coach he’ll be playing for, it’s the money he’s going to get, it’s his chances for a title and it’s also the respect he’ll be getting from his teammates and the franchise in general. When adding all those factors up, the only thing that points towards the Lakers is the money, as Howard will be eligible to sign a contract worth $30 million more by staying in LA, although the per-year numbers aren’t that different.
Kobe Bryant tweeted (his favorite pass-time recently) that he would love the Lakers to keep both Howard and Gasol. But saying those things don’t necessarily mean it’s true. There was nothing on the court that showed Bryant really wants to compete for points and possessions with Howard, as if it’s a competition at all. Bryant calls all the shots in LA, which is something Howard won’t have to deal with in Houston.
One of the biggest issues for Howard is Mike D’Antoni, as he has stated publicly. He felt he wasn’t treated as an important member and leader of the team by the Lakers’ head coach, or at least not the way he expected to be, or was used to from the Orlando Magic. Maybe it’s him trying to put some pressure on the Lakers to fire D’Antoni, or maybe it’s Howard simply being real and stating he is worried about playing under a head coach he doesn’t think is beneficial for his career.
Is Kevin McHale a better choice? McHale might not be the most brilliant of basketball minds as his career and the style of basketball his team plays have shown so far, but except for Jeremy Lin probably being slightly mistreated in favor of James Harden, there’s nothing to indicate he and Howard wouldn’t get along swimmingly. It does pose some lineup changes for the Rockets to do, as it’s hard to see Omer Asik and Howard co-existing in the same lineup, but the Rockets would certainly love to add another piece to their growing puzzle, which might turn them into NBA title contenders after not reaching the NBA playoffs for three consecutive seasons until a couple of months ago.
No one says no to the Lakers, the cliche tells us. But the future doesn’t look bright for both Dwight and the team, even if he stays with them. In one of those rare moments, it seems Dwight Howard is realizing that picking to sign with the Lakers might be the wrong choice.