Fittingly, Lakers, Dwight Howard Face Brooklyn At A Crossroads
If you adhere to the notion that turnabout is fair play, then it only makes sense for the Lakers to be meeting the Brooklyn Nets at precisely this point of the season. One franchise, (now) Brooklyn, spent the better part of the past 18 months grasping at air in their much-storied pursuit of Dwight Howard, while the league’s best center was still a member of the Orlando Magic. As he’s done so often in the past, GM Mitch Kupchak was able to make certain the Lakers were not left hanging when he was finally able to swing a deal to land the talented big man.
I’ll spare you the rest of the all-too-familiar tale, just as I won’t bother to beat any of you over the head with all of the trials and tribulations of the first half of this year. Fact is, this is going to remain a “story” until the season is settled and Dwight Howard decides what franchise he ultimately wants to spend the second half of his career with. Even though Brook Lopez is currently in the midst of as fine a statistical year as he’s had, regardless of what the Nets will publicly acknowledge, it would appear they are (at least) privately still very much interested in swinging a deal for Howard.
With the Lakers finally looking as though they are playing for a common goal, and Howard battling his way through several injuries, this couldn’t be a more perfect time to face the 5th-seeded (28-19 W/L) Brooklyn Nets. The Lakers ( 7-16 on the road), are coming off consecutive road victories for just the second time this season. The Nets boast one of the league’s better home records, as they are 18-8 at the brand new Barclays Center. It would have been completely understandable for Howard to want to put forth an impressive performance at Barclays, as not only is this the team/city he once so publicly angled for, but this is his opportunity to face the man (Lopez) some analysts are so eager to place above him in terms of skill/impact. Unfortunately, it sounds as though his shoulder simply will not permit him to go:
Two of LAL’s 3 most physical players – Howard & MWP (Kobe being the other) – out against a physical Nets team. That’s tough.
Although both men were impressive in their previous meeting, a 95-90 victory by the Lakers at Staples, Howard’s numbers, particularly on the defensive and rebounding end, were vastly superior. For those of us that are true fans of the less-heralded dirty work, that’s far more impressive.
For those members or the media and basketball-loving portion of the mass population without an ulterior motive or agenda, it is still that aspect of Howard’s (hobbled) game that places distance between the two big men. In the outside chance his body permits, I fully expect Howard to match any/all efforts put forth by Lopez. Most importantly for Lakers Nation, if Howard’s body permits him to play, it will give them a much better shot at winning their third consecutive and most impressive road victory all year. A feat, for the record, they have yet to do.
Howard’s teams are a perfect 8-0 over the previous eight games they’ve faced the Nets franchise. Over that stretch, Howard is averaging 20.4 points, 14.4 rebounds, and three blocks per game. Lopez, for the record, has only been eligible (injuries) for five of those games, and has averaged 17.2 points, but has only been able to muster 5.2 rebounds and .4 blocks per game.