Dwight Howard is the big fish in the pond, err, I mean Magical Kingdom, but he wants to leave for Brooklyn. While the Nets would LOVE to team him with Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Gerald Wallace to form a “Big 4″, they may not have the assets to land him. The Magic would LOVE to have a package centered around Los Angeles Lakers 24 year old All Star center Andrew Bynum, and the Lakers would like Howard, but he says he doesn’t want to go to L.A. and follow in Shaquile O’Neal’s footsteps. Howard also says wont sign a long term deal with any other team then the Nets. There is also the fact that the Lakers have trepidation with Howard because he recently had back surgery and it is reportedly “healing slow.”
One theroy of the Lakers not making a deal for Howard is Bynum is 2 years younger, a better offensive player and while he is immature, he doesn’t have the baggage Howard has. If I had my way you would see a trade (that has been talked about according to my NBA sources) sending power forward Pau Gasol to the Minnesota Timberwolves for forward Derrick Williams, swingman Wesley Johnson and a first round pick. The T-Wolves covet Gasol (to team with fellow countryman Ricky Rubio) and love what he would bring to their team. The Lakers would add the type of power forward (Williams) that fits the Lakers offense, being able to play outside the key and freeing Bynum up underneath. Johnson is a swingman that can spread the floor (who also happens to work out with Kobe Bryant in the off season) and he can play the 2 or the 3 while bringing some much needed athleticism to the Lakers starting line-up. It would also free up roughly $24 million dollars for the Lakers as well.
While Howard is a force on the defensive side of the ball and known as the best center in the NBA right now, but Bynum isn’t that far behind and I could make the argument that Bynum is a better offensive player right now. Where Howard would really help out the Lakers is on the defensive side of the ball where his tough interior defense would be a welcome sight for Lakers fans everywhere and would clean up on the boards on a nightly basis. But Bynum has a better offensive repertoire and can hit free throws and knows how to play with Kobe, which is something that has to be considered as well.
The thought of Howard in a Lakers uniform is one that most Lakers fans have long wished for. But after Howard’s year long “indecision” on where he wants to play, asking for the Magic to fire head coach Stan Van Gundy (and later GM Otis Smith), unwillingness to sign long term with anyone he is traded to other then the Nets and the alleged off the court “irresponsibility” with women not to mention a surgery on a bulging disc in his back, the Lakers have concerns (from what I was told). They want to make sure his back is alright first. If it is then that is a relief and they feel that since they will have his “Bird rights” (meaning that they can sign him for more money then any other team) they would be able to get him to commit long term. I was told that Howard is intrigued by playing with Kobe and newly acquired 2-time MVP Steve Nash. But is that enough to change his mind, a mind that has changed time and time again?
What should the Magic do if they can’t deal him to Brooklyn, his desired destination? Should they hold onto him or deal him to another team? What they need to do is make a decision that is best for their franchise in the short and long term and if that means deal him to L.A., Golden State, Houston or any other team that is willing to pay the piper then do it. Players don’t control where they go unless they are Free Agents and that is exactly what Howard is trying to do behind the scenes. Howard is the one who signed an agreement to “opt into” his contract last year prior to the trade deadline (after the team told him to wait until his agent was around but HE declined to do so) and now he wants out (again). It’s time for the Magic to make a move regardless of how Howard feels about it. He is gone in a year, so why let him walk and get nothing in return? He has already napalmed his bridges in Orlando and is the most “hated man in the NBA” by the way he has (mis)handled this situation. It’s time they get him out of there and get that franchise moving forward.
For the Lakers they are in a “win now” state of mind and that is evident by the addition of Nash. If they do deal for Howard they would have a center that can be a force on the defensive side of the ball and help create easy baskets by blocking shots and starting the fast break with Nash leading the way. But is the risk of obtaining Howard (both locking him up long term and his back) worth the risk? Jim Buss has been reluctant to deal Bynum for Howard (they had a deal in place last year but the Magic pulled out because Howard “opted in”) and the flashes of dominance Bynum has showed makes it a tough decision for Buss and GM Mitch Kupchak. They both know with Kobe, Nash, Howard and Gasol they have the look of a title contending team and that might be to great to pass up.
Everything I have been told is that a deal for Howard is not eminent. The Nets want to get a deal done by the end of next week and are trying to add a third team to the deal, otherwise they will wait until December when they can trade some of the newly signed players to the Magic. The Lakers on the other hand have reportedly told an unidentified player to be prepared to be moved in a possible Howard deal and seem to be playing it cool, not trying to make a brash move. The Magic also want to make sure they can lock Bynum up long term (which I was told wouldn’t be a problem).
Would Dwight Howard be a very good pick up for the Lakers (or any other team)? Yes. But the question is will he be the same player he has been on the court for the Magic for the past 9 years? Will be be the dominant defensive player that pulls down rebounds and dunks over any player in the NBA or will be the player that “shut it down” at the end of last years shortened season and is he worth that gamble? Dr. Jerry Buss is a gambling man and I think he would be willing to take that gamble. He’ll rely on the Lakers rich tradition of winning titles, the super star players who turn into icons, the L.A. skyline, beaches and Hollywood A-Lister’s that fill the Staples Center nightly with the beckoning calls of movie & T.V. roles in the offseason.
This is one decision I go back and forth with. But then again, so does Dwight Howard. I can’t imagine what he is going through and the emotions he is dealing with. I am going through them and I am just an “Average Joe”, not the person who’s livelihood everyone is talking about.
Average Joe Arrigo
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