Only 28 more non-shopping days ‘til Dwightmas, ending his two-year run-up to July 1, after moving his target date back from that day in 2012 to 2013. This isn’t about where Dwight Howard is going, since we can only wait and see. This is about what will happen then, or rather, how many teams will he lead onto the rocks before he’s through.
Wherever it is, there’s a great chance that the (redacted) will hit the fan. Again. As it did with the Lakers and Magic, who had him, and the Nets and Mavericks, who tried to acquire him. Not that Howard won’t turn any marginally marginal team into a playoff contender.
Big wow. That’s a lot of money–$118 million for the Lakers, $88 mill for anyone else–to make the playoffs. If he joins a team that is then considered a championship contender, Howard just showed he could turn one of those into a playoff contender, too.
So, in what I believe to be the order of probable outcomes:
Lakers—The extra 35% they can guarantee may well hold him here, even if he could lop the money he leaves on the table to 25% in the Lone Star Tax Haven, saving the 10% California income tax. Unfortunately, Dwight still has “issues” that haven’t gone away. People close to him say he’s still leery of Kobe Bryant, a big sign of immaturity, as well as down on Mike D’Antoni, keeping his record perfect since he’s been down on his previous coaches.
Dwight doesn’t talk about it but those close to him, like Dwight Sr., the retired Georgia state cop, called D’Antoni “the problem,” in February for letting Bryant hurt his son’s feelings.
“Dwight is probably looking at the coach, thinking, ‘What are you going to do?’” Dwight Sr. told the Atlanta Constitution.
“I promise, if that had been Stan Van Gundy, that wouldn’t have happened. [Dwight] wouldn’t have been admonished publicly. I think the coach has a lot to do with who controls Kobe’s mouth right now.”
It’s clear Dwight Sr. knows even less about Kobe than Dwight Jr..
However, if Bryant is demanding and domineering, this is a kinder, gentler Kobe than the one who feuded with Shaquille O’Neal, ignoring any urge to pinch Dwight’s head off at the neck. If Bryant grumbled privately about wooing someone who didn’t want to be here, he remained diplomatic and supportive. In the team meeting at Memphis that turned their season around, Kobe acknowledged being hard to play with, an unheard of concession for him, and even invited Dwight to air out his problems.
Howard demurred… which is what he does. Pau Gasol, arriving in Dwight’s position in 2008, saw it as a gift, helping the Lakers make the Finals his first three seasons, including a championship in 2009-2010. It’s not a good sign if Howard isn’t over his problem with Bryant after all they surmounted together.
Nor does the Memphis meeting suggest that Dwight has any inclination or ability to work out such problems. Howard isn’t as deep and dark on D’Antoni, hinting at a problem last week when he told the Los Angeles Times’ T.J Simers that MDA “is a great person.” Is he a great coach?
“He’s a great person,” repeated Dwight.
So, yes, it seems as though Howard would really like it if the Lakers would get the hint and sack D’Antoni. Unfortunately, Dwight, determined not to enhance his coach-killer rep by offing any more of them, neglected to tell that to GM Mitch Kupchak. Not that they would be likely to fire D’Antoni in any case, but the Lakers aren’t even aware there’s a problem.
Unlike you and me, they deal with Dwight first-hand, with the peril of wanting to believe him. All he apparently told Kupchak is that he wished D’Antoni would let him be more of a leader. How’s that for a straight line? Where would he lead them…Disneyland?
So, even if Howard takes the money and stays, he’s likely to come back next season with issues, like those he arrived with last season. And it’s not like the Lakers, with Bryant’s injury, MDA’s pressure, and the need to defer rebuilding until next spring, won’t have enough issues. Think of it like the good old days of Shaq & Kobe, just without the championships.
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