When the season began, this looked like a match made in heaven. Dwight Howard, the best center in the NBA, and the Los Angeles Lakers, a team always thinking about title rings, with a long line of great big men. A few months later, and it wouldn’t be too surprising if this isn’t a match made for life.
At the moment, no one is planning on accepting any trade offers for Howard, not as far as anyone knows. There have been stories about the Brooklyn Nets trying to work out some deal and get Howard before he becomes a free agent. Then again, there’s no use in trading for Howard unless you know he’s willing to sign a new contract for you.
The problem? Maybe Howard isn’t so guaranteed to sign a new contract for the Los Angeles Lakers anymore. Remember, this is the guy that tore apart the Orlando Magic last season for his huge ego and for changing his mind about what he wants to do in the future about a dozen times. It results in Stan Van Gundy getting fired, General Manager Otis Smith getting fired and Dwight Howard eventually traded to the Lakers, while the Orlando Magic look like they’re on a road to nowhere until they get a lucky ping pong ball.
Numbers don’t always tell the right story. Howard is averaging 17.1 points and an NBA-best 12.3 rebounds per game this season, but it’s hard to say the Lakers are pleased with what’s been going on. Remember, the whole Gasol-mess is because the Lakers decided to put their future in the slippery hands of Howard, who has been averaging 3.2 turnovers a game while shooting an awful 50.4% from the line. Meanwhile, Gasol was first moved to a position he can’t succeed in before getting bumped down to the bench, and move closer to an impending trade.
The worst thing is Howard’s attitude of late. Maybe he rushed his return from his back injury, but the most obvious thing about Howard (and the Lakers) is they are not defending as good as a team with Howard should be. The lane is wide open, while Dwight Howard doesn’t seem too n sync with his teammates regarding covering pick n rolls and closing down driving lanes or chasing players trying to draw him away from the hoop.
Howard isn’t happy, and that is his fault, Kobe Bryant’s fault, but more importantly it’s the fault of those who built this team. Egos don’t mesh well together when they’re too big, and the warning has been on the wall since the beginning of the season, when Bryant kept saying he isn’t ready to give up his “number one” status for the Lakers just yet. Bryant is a man who appreciated hard work, and it’s clearly not impressing him, whatever it is that Howard is doing lately. The result? Three consecutive games of Howard taking 7 field goal shots or less. Guess what, the Lakers lost all of them.
So Dwight Howard acted all mature, and ran into the dressing room to show reporters shot charts and how few he’s been getting. It’s no big secret that despite the fake attempts to hide their disdain for each other, there’s not a lot of love between Howard and Bryant. Howard getting a cold shoulder when it comes to balls supply under the basket just might be a direct result of that.
The present doesn’t look good for the 17-24 Los Angeles Lakers. Worst? The future doesn’t look that much better. Suddenly, all that talk about cap space, means something. Means that Howard might not be the man to take this franchise into his hands once Bryant’s career is over. Meaning thy are going to have to do a lot of re-shuffling, because the current lineup just doesn’t work. The question is who is going to pay the cost.