In defense of Jim Buss, who was getting blamed for mistakes his father made, all-time great owner or not—like hire Mike D’Antoni instead of Phil Jackson—it’s no small challenge to find yourself in charge days before the trading deadline, with one of the knottiest guts-ball decisions you can imagine to make.
Dwight Howard, stay or go?
That’s Dwight Howard, as in 27 years-old, 6-11, 275 pounds of high-jumping, athletic phenom.
Well, he was once, anyway.
Now he’s Dwight Howard, as in “not dominating anything… refuses to even hint he wants to stay… could get on the same page as Kobe Bryant (of course, neither could Shaquille O’Neal)… then shows he can’t even get on the same page as Steve Nash who reams him out in the rout at Miami… before mocking Kobe in front of other players at the All-Star Game?”
My guess is the Lakers have already decided—they’re keeping Howard for the time being—with GM Mitch Kupchak, who usually says nothing, declaring recently that Dwight and Pau Gasol aren’t going anywhere.
Of course, in keeping Dwight, they’d be honoring a perfectly sound principle:
If you have an old team with only one young star, you’d best keep him.
Of course, no one like Howard ever messed himself up in free agency as he has in two seasons of alienating himself with two teams. Next to Dwight, LeBron James’ TV special announcing he was “taking my talents to South Beach” was like using the wrong fork at a state dinner
This isn’t a close call.
The Lakers could certainly get Josh Smith for Howard, and, according to one GM I talked to, more—like Jeff Teague, who, like Smith, is on an expiring contract.
Most of the Hawks’ players are coming off their cap this summer, with the team intent on creating two max slots for big free agents, starting with Howard, an Atlanta native.
This would be a best-case scenario for them, making them the team that could give Howard a $115 million deal, $30 mill bigger than anyone else.
If Dwight leaves, well, the Hawks are back where they started, with two max slots to pursue whoever’s left.
The Lakers would get two badly needed athletes, both slashers with some (OK, a little) shooting ability, who’d be great in Mike D’Antoni’s spread offense (remember Shawn Marion? Leandro Barbosa?)
The center would be Pau, who, unlike Dwight, can play in D’Antoni’s offense. With Nash and Kobe, that’s a lot better than the team’s that out there now.
Of course, the Lakers may be able to get the same package out of Atlanta after the season, but that’s far off with a lot of moving parts.
Me, I’d do what I always do, try to think up a rock song that reflects my position, like:
Go now. Go now. Go now.
Don’t you even try telling me
That you really don’t want me to end this way….
I don’t want to see you go
You’d better go now.