After serving one season as the second in command to Kobe Bryant, there’s a good chance Dwight Howard will prefer seeking a different status somewhere else around the NBA and test the free agency waters instead of re-signing with the Los Angeles Lakers, even though staying put means more money than anywhere else.
According to sources close to Howard, he won’t commit to anything with the Lakers until he checks out the offers, which means the teams and teammates he can play with. Howard can sign a five-year, $118 million extension with the Lakers, or a four-year, $87.6 million deal with another team. A difference in more than $30 million is definitely worth considering, but Howard’s exit tells a tale of someone who might not be too pleased with where he’s at right now.
It was a little bit reminiscent of LeBron James’ final game for the Cleveland Cavaliers, with some calling him a quitter after a loss to the Boston Celtics. Howard had an exchange of words with GM, Mitch Kupchack before Kobe Bryant took a well planned move towards the bench to get himself a standing ovation from the Lakers fans.
Kupchack later said that Howard will one day have his jersey hanging from the top of the Staples Center. Back in February he called Howard the future of the franchise, but his messaged might not be something everyone agree upon.
Howard spent this season as a second option on offense, something he never experienced with the Orlando Magic. Learning curve? It didn’t seem to be something he was pleased to be doing all season. He wasn’t pleased when Kobe Bryant threw him under the bus, leading everyone to blame Howard for the Lakers’ situation. It didn’t help when Magic Johnson criticized Howard for the way he ended the series vs the Spurs, averaging only 17 points per game in the sweep against the Spurs.
All that adds up. Howard might want an NBA title and to play for a team that will pay him more money than anyone, but there are other factors to consider. The Houston Rockets, the Dallas Mavericks, the Chicago Bulls and the Brooklyn Nets don’t offer this kind of lost-battle situation for him. He’s never going to be as serious as Bryant, or at least not put up a serious face like the kind of Southern California.
Maybe it was just a basketball team that didn’t come together, but it seems to be something more. Profound, deep gulfs and abysses in the way some think a team should be run. Howard put his body on the line, returning after spinal surgery that could have kept him out for most of the season, and playing despite a torn labrum in his right shoulder. He did miss six games, but Bryant put media pressure to comeback.
Villains, heroes, good guys and bad change as we move forward in time, and when we look back at this season, a failure for the Los Angeles Lakers no matter how you look at it, maybe Howard won’t be such a bad guy anymore. For now, it certainly feels like he’s the one with the bulls-eye painted on his back, urging him even more strongly to find a different place to play next season.