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Dwight Howard

“Time to get over it”: The conundrum of Dwight Howard’s departure

Dwight Howard isn’t the first All-star player to leave his team via free agency. He’s not even the first this decade.
 
LeBron James and Chris Bosh took off on Cleveland and Toronto three years ago. Two years after that, Ray Allen joined them, walking from the Boston Celtics to their chief rivals in the Miami Heat. Steve Nash’s situation wasn’t much different than Shuttlesworth’s when he happily joined up with a Kobe-Pau-Dwight Lakers team just last offseason. Guys like Chris Paul, Deron Williams and Carmelo Anthony didn’t leave their teams via free agency per se, but were dealt to teams when it became apparent that they would depart their teams in a year’s time.
 
And what follows typically isn’t pretty. After James spurned the Cavaliers on public television in July 2010, Clevelanders took to the streets and burned his jersey to ash. There was never smoke in Denver like those number 23 effigies, but to this day, Carmelo Anthony gets booed every time he touches the ball in the Mile High City. Allen was considered persona non grata by his former championship teammates when he first returned to Boston, as Beantown repeatedly seems to forget his title contributions in their continual jeering every time he returns.
 
Fans don’t forget. It’s not in their fanatical nature. Leaving a team is akin to a lover packing his or her bags for the more inviting arms of someone with better abs and more money. People take it personally–and after all, how could you not? If you’re investing as much emotion into the game as most ardent fans are, is there any reason why we should expect anything less than a visceral reaction?
 
(More to come at Silver Screen & Roll)
 
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With Dwight in tow, are they title contenders? Houston Rockets Season Preview

Starting Five: PG Jeremy Lin, SG James Harden, SF Chandler Parsons, PF Omer Asik, C Dwight Howard
 
Key bench players: PF Donatas Montiejunas, PG Patrick Beverley, PF Terrence Jones, SF Omri Casspi, SG Ronnie Brewer, G/F Francisco Garcia, PG Aaron Brooks
 
Offseason additions: C Dwight Howard, SF Omri Casspi, PG Isaiah Canaan (34th overall pick), C Marcus Camby
 
Offseason subtractions: SF Carlos Delfino, PF Thomas Robinson, SF Royce White
 
FACT OR FICTION: Dwight Howard makes this team into a title contender.
 
FICTION. But he gets them a hell of a lot closer.
 
After years and years of collecting assets and waiting, GM Daryl Morey finally assembled the super team he always seemed right on the precipice of creating. With defensive specialist wrecking ball in Howard joining a James Harden-led 45-37 8th seed team with defensive shortcomings, it almost seemed like too perfect of a formula.
 
The problem is that as we’ve seen year after year, the NBA isn’t a plug and play league. As perfect of an addition as Dwight may seem on the surface, there’s several problems that he simply doesn’t address. And one of them isn’t “Aren’t you just a relentless Lakers homer?”
 
I might be. I am. But that doesn’t mean I’m not right.… Read more...

With one offseason without Dr. Buss over, believing blindly in the future of the Lakers proves foolish

“They would’ve probably had a better relationship if my dad hadn’t been sick,” Jeanie Buss said in a wide-ranging interview with hosts Mark Willard and Mychal Thompson on ESPNLA 710 Thursday. “When it came time to try to convince Dwight to stay, we lost the best closer in the business in Dr. Buss.
 
“Putting up the billboard maybe wasn’t the right thing. But we maybe have to learn to do things differently because Dr. Buss isn’t here anymore. People said [of the billboards], ‘Oh, that’s not the Laker way.’ Well, the Laker way isn’t the same, because Dr. Buss isn’t here.”

 
Billboards.
 
For most Lakers fans, the key discussion point this summer was billboards. In many ways, these gigantic advertisements have become a dinosaur of the marketing hemisphere. As the world moves deeper into an interactive age, billboards have become digitized, randomized and monetized for maximum possible consumer interface and of course, maximum possible profit. The peel and paste posters of yesterday are increasingly becoming relics of a technological age we no longer live in. In this way, it’s fitting that the Lakers fans would be so up in arms about something with an ideology that’s no longer relevant.
 
Still, the debate in LA raged on. How could the Lakers–the Lakers–be reduced to begging a superstar player to stay in Los Angeles? For decades, men have sold out on entire cities, walked out on friends and left behind millions of dollars to play for teams much worse than this current incarnation of the Lakers. This franchise typically doesn’t have to go to any tremendous lengths to try and sign (or re-sign) any player, regardless of his skill level. It’s been the place where NBAers have longed to land, in pursuit of wealth, fame and of course, championships.
 
And for the rest of the summer, Lakers fans everywhere have raged about how the organization could seemingly have forgotten who they were. Even before their former All-Star center left to join the Houston Rockets, the fan base lamented how their favorite team seemingly threw itself at the foot of a singular player. The whole episode seemed to betray the notion of who the Lakers had been for the past 33 years under stewardship of the Buss family. But rather than turn their confusion upon the team, a curious thing happened: the Lakers fans turned their resentment towards the free agent.
 
(Read on at Silver Screen and Roll)
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Dwight Howard’s departure makes a Lakers future with LeBron James harder to see

The short term ramifications of losing Dwight Howard in free agency are obvious: even the most fanciful dreams of returning as title contenders next season are officially dead. The Lakers watched a 27-year-old center–whose capabilities, when healthy, make him a top-5 NBA player–walk right out the door. Gone is a future face of a franchise, whose defensive dominance would have kept the Lakers competitive even in the most dire of injury situations. The Lakers have lost their starting center, the fulcrum of their D and a perennial All-Star.
 
Long term? The damage could be much more profound. The ultimate cost may be losing a significant advantage that could have helped sign LeBron James in July 2014.
 
As I’ve detailed before, next summer’s free agency class is going to be much more underwhelming than many are making it out to be. Aside from James, there no other players that stand out as potential franchise cornerstones. Young players like Greg Monroe, John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins and Paul George will be restricted free agents (if they aren’t extended before the season begins) whose teams are likely to match whatever contract terms they are offered. The crop of unrestricted free agents will be players like Dirk Nowitzki, Paul Pierce, Danny Granger, Andrew Bogut and Luol Deng, each of whom is either incapable of carrying a team by himself or too old to be a more than one or two year solutions at best. Then there are the handful of players that can choose to terminate their contracts early, such as the aforementioned James, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony.
 
Out of those four, LeBron is the only player that has age, talent and a winning pedigree on his side to truly serve as the type of franchise savior the Lakers need. Bosh has proven in Toronto that he’s not quite equipped for that type of responsibility, while Anthony has won just two postseason series in his ten playoff trips. Now that the Lakers do not have Howard’s services and Kobe Bryant is much closer to the end of his career than the beginning, the self-stylized “Chosen One” could be LA’s best hope for a quick rebuild.
 
However, without Dwight Howard in tow, it’s going to be a tougher sell than ever before to get LeBron to sign on GM Mitch Kupchak’s dotted line.
 
(Read on at Silver Screen and Roll)

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Instant Trade Analysis: Dwight Howard to the Houston Rockets…and what’s next for the Lakers?

Houston Rockets get: C Dwight Howard
 
Dwight Howard’s quixotic journey out of Orlando, into Los Angeles and finally settling in Houston has mercifully ended its stranglehold on the fortunes of no less than six franchises across the NBA. The seven-time All-Star center chose the Rockets over the Los Angeles Lakers, Golden State Warriors, Atlanta Hawks and Dallas Mavericks, citing his desire to win more than anything, and Houston’s proximity to making that become a reality. As the Los Angeles Times’ Mike Bresnahan astutely points out, this is the first time a player of Howard’s caliber has willingly left the Lakers in free agency. The next closest example of that ever happening is A.C. Green almost 20 years ago–a true indication of how rare an occurrence a moment of humility is for the 16-time NBA World Champions.
 
Let’s get this out of the way: regardless of what anyone thinks about Howard’s attitude, work ethic, decision-making ability or on-court ability, he made a solid choice. He looked at the immediate future for all of the clubs in question, and selected the one with a budding 23-year-old superstar, a cutting edge front office and nearly $20 million dollars in cap room in just two years time. Meanwhile, the Lakers asked him to trust a front office that has made very recent, very shaky decisions, look past coach Mike D’Antoni’s shortcomings and believe that a 35-year-old Kobe Bryant and a 39 year-old Steve Nash could come back from injuries and compete for a title. Dwight deliberated all of this knowing the pedigree of the Lakers organization and mulling an extra $30 million dollars in purple and gold change, but ultimately chose what he could see in front of him versus what was promised. I can’t say I fault him for making that decision.
 
If healthy, Dwight Howard is an absolute knock-out of a signing for Houston. Despite a reputation to the contrary, the Rockets finished the year 16th in defensive efficiency and second to last in points allowed per game, all of which should improve with a 3-time Defensive Player of the Year in the fold. He’s a more active shot blocker than the incumbent Omer Asik, as well as a better scorer on every avenue (well…except free throws). Howard should feast off a much better three-point shooting team than the Lakers were last year, with James Harden, Chandler Parsons, Patrick Beverley and perhaps Jeremy Lin gunning from long. If spry and unencumbered by a recovery from surgery, Dwight should be able to mesh well with one of league’s best fast break offenses as well as improve defense on the run. The Rockets are young and untested with a coach that has won exactly 2 playoff games while holding a clipboard, so they’ll have much to prove before anyone considers them title contenders. But they’ve got all the necessary pieces in place to get there, and quickly.
 
Going back West, like every chapter in Lakers lore, whether it be a championship at the final buzzer of the season or on the receiving end of a sweep at the first round, the question is always “what’s next?” Let’s take a look at the hanging plot threads:
 

(Finish this one up over at Silver Screen!)
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Disassembling the myth of the 2014 NBA free agent class

In just a few days’ time, Dwight Howard could leave the Los Angeles Lakers. The Houston Rockets have been reported as the center’s top suitor, with LA and the Dallas Mavericks in the mix and the Atlanta Hawks bringing up the rear. It’s a sobering reality to think of a star player leaving the bright lights of Southern California for Dallas, Houston or Atlanta, but Howard is bringing a strange new world to one of the most celebrated franchises in all of sports.
 
As I scan the pulse of Lakers fans everywhere, I’ve noticed a discernible notion that letting Dwight Howard walk is not the worst scenario possible. Some have mentioned that he’s not worth the years or money, while others simply don’t want to build around a player who has such a flair for problematic drama. Another group feels that his prime has come and gone, and his health issues from last season weren’t just a one year malady.
 
There is one more sector of Lakers fans that believe it’s okay if Dwight leaves because the reinforcements are on the way in just 12 months’ time. Regardless of Howard’s status with the team, there will be long-term solutions available.
 
They are wrong.
 
The vaunted 2014 free agent class is a myth. It doesn’t exist. The highlight of the 2014 free agency class starts and ends with LeBron James, who can potentially terminate his contract with the Miami Heat and become an unrestricted free agent next July. At that point, he’ll be able to sign with any team he wishes with the requisite cap room, which as of today, includes the Los Angeles Lakers.
 
Beyond James? There isn’t much there. Let’s break down the list as it stands today:
 
(Read on at Silver Screen and Roll)

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To rebound into a title contender, can the 2013-2014 Lakers follow the blueprint of the 2010-2011 Dallas Mavericks?

As tough as a postseason-less 2013 was on the Dallas Mavericks and their fans, just three years ago, having a high-seeded playoff team didn’t feel any better.
 
The 2010 Mavs were the latest disappointment in what felt like an endless string of them. Dallas was just four years removed from an epic playoff collapse against the Heat in the 2006 NBA Finals, and three years away from losing as a 67-wing number 1 seed to the 8-seed Golden State Warriors. The 2009-2010 Mavericks had recently reloaded the team, bringing on former All-Stars like Shawn Marion and Jason Kidd in addition to incumbent All-Stars Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry. They took a very good 55-27 record and a 2nd seed into the playoffs, but like their predecessors, were unceremoniously dismissed; this time it was a first round loss to the 7th seeded San Antonio Spurs in 6 games. Even as solid as their regular season was, the future didn’t look terribly bright for Dallas. The ghosts of their past playoff failures seemed to haunt the team every spring, which included an aging core of Nowitzki (31), Marion (31), Brendan Haywood (30), Terry (32) and Kidd (36). Suffice to say, the Mavs weren’t getting much younger. Not all was lost–after all, Dirk was still an All-Star, the team had a very good and very underrated coach in Rick Carlisle and an excellent owner that took annual financial losses to make sure his team had everything necessary to remain competitive. However, few expected that the team was close to having the makings of a championship core. 2010-2011 was supposed to be just another year in which the Mavericks were a potent squad, but ultimately an also-ran in the race for the chip.
 
But after a shrewd series of moves in the summer of 2010, and then into the season, the pieces for a championship contender had quietly fallen into place:
 
July 13, 2010: Traded Matt Carroll, Erick Dampier, Eduardo Najera and cash to the Charlotte Bobcats for Alexis Ajinca and Tyson Chandler. Signed Ian Mahinmi as a free agent.
 
September 27, 2010: Signed Brian Cardinal as a free agent.
 
January 24, 2011: Signed Peja Stojakovic as a free agent.
 
At the time, none of these moves were considering even close to resembling significant transactions. Chandler was coming off an injury-filled year in Charlotte, and even worse, was traded to the Mavericks for the mere price of Erick Dampier’s expiring deal. The prevailing sentiment that summer was that Dampier’s eight-figure contract would be a key asset in claiming another star to prop up Nowitzki. Though Chandler was considered an upgrade over Dampier’s rapidly degrading corpse, he wasn’t nearly the player that made him into a Defensive Player of the Year seasons later, and thus was thought of as a rather underwhelming acquisition considering the expectations. The pair of 33 year-olds in the Immortal Brian Cardinal and Peja Stojakovic were both on their way out of the league, and few thought they could continue to contribute.
 
By the end of June, it was clear that these acquisitions were more important than any Decision that had gone on in the summer of 2010. Chandler was the key, quarterbacking a stout defense that ranked as the league’s 8th most efficient per 100 possessions. Shouting out instructions from the paint, Tyson, as well as Marion and DeShawn Stevenson created a deceivingly tough inside-out D that bulldozed their way to a solid 57-win season and an eventual 4-2 victory over the Miami Heat in the Finals for the franchise’s first titl… Read more...

How unlikely is a Dwight Howard/Chris Paul Lakers future? Very unlikely

Grantland’s Bill Simmons has been putting out a plausible theory that could turn inevitably moribund 2013-2014 Los Angeles Lakers season into a renaissance year for the league’s most blessed franchise. From the Sports Guy’s article a couple weeks ago:
 

Don’t rule out Chris Paul becoming a Laker next year. Here’s how they could pull it off: If they amnestied Kobe Bryant, then traded Pau Gasol to Houston for a dirt-cheap salary (say, Donatas Motiejunas), they’d suddenly be lopping close to $49 million off next year’s cap, leaving them with commitments to Metta World Peace, Steve Nash, Steve Blake, Chris Duhon, Jordan Hill, and Gasol’s cheap replacement for less than $30 million. That’s more than enough to sign Chris Paul and re-sign Dwight Howard if they took a little less … which they might, since it’s the Lakers and all.

 
To clarify, LA is very much over the $58 million dollar salary cap threshold–around $40 million over it. The 2013-2014 roster amounts to roughly $78 million in commitments, which doesn’t count a figure for Dwight Howard if he were to re-sign. Pulling off Simmons’ theoretical scenario would involve clearing the cap room and then signing Chris Paul to a 4-year, $79 million dollar deal (the most he’s eligible for a team that’s not the Clippers) and Dwight to a 5-year, $118 million dollar deal. No easy feat.
 
(For the uninitiated, the amnesty clause is a one-time provision every team has in order to waive one player and thus clearing his salary from their salary cap number. The player cut will still receive his payment in full, but the team will not have to pay any luxury tax on the contract, if they are indeed over the cap limit. Also, the team that waives the player cannot re-sign him for the entire duration of the original contract. For this case specifically, if the Lakers were to amnesty Kobe Bryant, they would not be able to re-sign at any point during the 2013-2014 season)
 
As insanely cold-hearted as it may be, the Sports Guy might not be crazy. LA could completely rebuild in just one season, launching themselves back into championship contention after a mere three years in title-purgatory. Make no mistake: a Chris Paul/Dwight Howard core would, health permitting, be more than a match for the Oklahoma City Thunder, Golden State Warriors and perhaps Finals-bound Memphis Grizzlies. If it were to happen, that is.
 
Beyond all the complexities of essentially cutting Kobe Bryant (and don’t be naïve: if Kobe Bryant were to get cut via the amnesty provision by the Lakers, do you think for one second that a disgruntled and disrespected Mamba would ever come back to the purple & gold, even after he was allowed to? He’s still upset at the Phoenix Suns for beating a Kwame Brown and Smush Parker-led team 8 years ago. He would never get over this), there are too many technical difficulties to get this coup to happen. Let’s go to the tape:
 
1) The clock is against them. The Lakers can ONLY use the amnesty provision between July 10th and July 17th 2013
 
If the Lakers are going to make such a franchise altering decision, they’ll need to do it all in a two-week period.
 
Every NBA team can talk to free agents starting on midnight on July 1st. Though teams cannot officially sign players, they can “agree to terms” before pen is put to paper. This is in no way legally binding, meaning that the player is not compelled under contract law to sign with the team, … Read more...

Los Angeles Lakers Summer 2013 Moves Preview

KOBEsh: In my mind, there’s three big issues heading into the Lakers offseason. In no particular order….

     
  1. Is Dwight Howard going to re-up for five years, $118 million?
  2. Is Mike D’Antoni going to be the coach next season?
  3. Is Pau Gasol going to be on the team next season?
  4.  

Those questions–not a silly Kobe amnesty conversation–are what’s taking up my mindspace after a devastating end to the regular season.
 
CDP, what’s the biggest storyline in your mind?
 
The CDP: I have to think, I have to assume that Dwight is re-upping. I was really hoping that he would play better without Kobe and win a game or two against the Spurs. It turns out that the Laker injury bug kept taking depth and Dwight may have had the worst supporting cast he’s ever seen during that series. Dwight was frustrated, imploded, and left the 2013 playoffs with a mouthful of unbelievable sour grapes. I have to think that the money, market, and potential to own LA after Kobe leaves will still be enough. I don’t really think he’d rather be in Dallas, Atlanta, Utah, or Houston. If he does leave, he never had the cajones to make it in LA anyway, and they’ll have $60M+ in cap room next off-season.
 
Your other two questions are much more interesting to me, especially since Cleveland re-hiring Mike Brown got the Lakers off the hook for his albatross of a contract. I guess the primary question is: what kind of mood are the Lakers in? Will there be pressure to reduce expenses, as there was inexplicably during the lockout – cutting long-time assistants, equipment managers, and valuable scouts? Or will the Lakers defiantly pay the $85M tax bill coming their way – neglecting to use the nuclear amnesty option.  At the moment, the Lakers owe D’Antoni 2 years and $8M and Pau Gasol another year with nearly $20M in salary cap commitments.… Read more...

What went wrong with the 2012-2013 Los Angeles Lakers … front office?

(“What went wrong this season?” is the question we get the most from fans at Silver Screen & Roll. The 2012-2013 team had championship expectations, but a convergence of worst case scenarios kicked down LA to the the fringes of playoff contention. In this post series, we’ll be taking a look at just what went wrong with each part of the Los Angeles Lakers this year, how it affected the organization and if this could be a problem going forward. Check out our examinations of the guards, big men and head coaches from this past week.)

 

Off-season transactions

 

June 28, 2012: Selected C Robert Sacre with the 60th pick in the 2012 NBA Draft

 

July 11, 2012: Sign-and-trade deal for PG Steve Nash, 3 years, $28 million (traded a 2013 1st round draft pick, a 2013 2nd round draft pick, a 2014 2nd round draft pick and a 2015 1st round draft pick to the Phoenix Suns)

 

July 25, 2012: Signed PF Antawn Jamison for 1 year, $1.3 million

 

July 25, 2012: Re-signed PF Jordan Hill for 2 years, $8 million

 

August 10, 2012: Traded for C Dwight Howard, PG Chris Duhon and F Earl Clark, sending C Andrew Bynum to the Philadelphia 76ers and PF Josh McRoberts, PG Christian Eyenga and a 2017 1st round draft pick to the Orlando Magic

 

August 13, 2012: Signed SG Jodie Meeks to 2 years, $2.9 million (2nd year team option)

 

What went wrong with the 2012-2013 Los Angeles Lakers front office?

 

The team double-downed on age and experience, and it couldn’t have gone worse.

 

Four potential Hall of Famers, six former All-Stars and a boatload of expectations. What could go wrong?

 

Well, everything.

 

The Lakers went into last summer after two consecutive second round playoff exits with some serious questions and a capped-out roster that would make it potentially difficult to make any significant moves. Even with Derek Fisher on the team, LA had a significant hole at point guard, as well as one of the league’s most unproductive benches. Andrew Bynum had his healthiest season ever, earning his first spot on 1st Team All-NBA, but it was unclear whether or not he could be counted on as a max-contract player when he became a free agent in 2013. The Lakers looked like a very good but not great team on the downslide that would either have to completely rebuild or suffer a slow, withering death. It didn’t look great, to say the least.

 
(Read more after the break)

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