Despite all the hints Dwight Howard is dropping about joining the Houston Rockers or possibly the Dallas Mavericks this offseason, the Los Angeles Lakers, his most recent employers, don’t think he’s going to be playing anywhere else in the 2013-2014 NBA season.
Howard didn’t really enjoy his first, and possibly only season with the Los Angeles Lakers. He sped up his back-injury recovery, which led to some pain during the season. That happened again when he had his shoulder problem, but got called out by Kobe Bryant and the rest of his teammates for not putting his body on the line.
The Lakers did end up making the playoffs, with Howard averaging 17.1 points and 12.4 rebounds per game. The numbers are fine, and it was quite natural his scoring would drop with Kobe Bryant on the team and Pau Gasol as the second big man, but it wasn’t just about the numbers taking a hit, but in general his stature with the team and his battles with Bryant behind the scenes.
It was about not being treated like the star he thinks he is, and probably has been during his Orlando days. Howard isn’t used to being the second or third option in the attack, or getting the ball down low less than 10 times a game on certain nights.
And there’s also the money issue. While the Lakers can offer Howard a five year contract which in total will get him more money than if he signs with the Houston Rocket or the Dallas Mavericks (can only give him a four year deal), as long as he stays healthy it doesn’t really matter, because he’ll get another maximum deal after that as well.
The taxes in Texas are also worth mentioning, or the lack of a state tax, which means that the first four years of a contract with the Rockets and the Mavs can mean around $8-10 million more than with the Lakers. And there’s the look at the future, and it’s impossible to ignore how promising the Houston Rockets look right now compared with the other two teams when it comes to short-term and long-term success.
No different from what I said at the end of the season. We have a dialogue, and we do talk, but we’re not allowed to negotiate until July 1. We talk about when he’s getting in the gym and what he’s doing, how his back is feeling and things like that. From the conclusion of the season to July 1 is two months, so it’s important to work on your body and your game in that time.
Dwight has earned the right to become a free agent, and he probably will be recruited and perhaps make a couple of visits. That being the case, I would hope that we’d have a chance also before he makes his decision.
Mitch Kupchak failed at his job last season, even if early on, the signings the Lakers made seemed like amazing choices. Anytime you barely reach the playoffs and scrape the bottom of your D-League team to start in a playoff game, it means you didn’t do a great job.
But the Lakers GM wouldn’t trade Howard when everyone thought he should, and he has no reason to believe, at least showing his outside opinion, that Howard can find an option that’s more intriguing and lucrative than playing for the Los Angeles Lakers.