Sunday, February 17, 2013

Los Angeles, Wave Goodbye To Dwight Howard

Fast forward to next year at this time. Who's going to be the center for the L.A. Lakers then?. If you say it's going to be Dwight Howard the Lakers' current center, you're dreaming.

After this season, when his contract is up, and maybe even before that, Dwight will be long gone from L.A. Where he'll be it's hard to say--Dallas, Brooklyn, Atlanta, who knows? Right now it seems like no team has a place for him. But let him become available and you'll see some team go through the contractual, financial gymnastics necessary to land Howard, a player who could be a franchise cornerstone for the next seven or eight years. But one thing you can bank on--he won't be a Laker.

Get this, Lakers fans. Howard hates playing for your team. Multiple sources close to two Lakers players say, in the locker room, Howard's feelings about being a Laker are very clear. The players know it and Howard doesn't hide it from them. But no one on the team wants to say it out loud. Why kill the fans' dreams? Why  make them hate Howard more than they already do?

When Howard is asked by the media about playing for the Lakers next season, he always dodges and dances, never really answering the question. Face it, if he was eager to play for the team next year he wouldn't hesitate to say so. Not giving an answer is the same as confessing, "I don't want to be a Laker."

Why does Howard want out? Two reasons, coach Mike D'Antoni and domineering teammate Kobe Bryant. First of all, Howard is totally unsuited for D'Antoni's run-run-run system. When Howard signed with the Lakers last year the coach was Mike Brown, who uses a defense-oriented system that favors post-up centers like Howard. But when D'Antoni replaced Brown at the start of the season, that was the beginning of the end for Howard as a Laker.

Also, Howard hates playing with Kobe Bryant, a dour, win-win-win fanatic who's totally dedicated to being a Laker and passionately rules the team, on and off the court. They may seem civil toward each other, but that's all show. Dwight and Kobe are oil and water. Used to being No. 1, Howard doesn't take kindly to being in Kobe's shadow or being viciously criticized  for not wearing a serious game face when the Lakers are losing. Nor is Howard crazy about the constant, intense scrutiny that comes with playing in a major media center. He was king in little Orlando, the No.1 player on the Magic, just about immune to criticism. But in L.A.he's been a giant target for the merciless media that has all but labeled him a lazy bum who's a big-time disappointment.

Howard is a fun-loving, hang-loose guy. To him, losing isn't the end of the world. But that's not the Laker way. To Kobe and many fans, the Lakers are like a religion. They chase championships with maniacal fervor. Not winning one is a crushing defeat. Dwight hasn't boarded that bandwagon and never will. Fun-loving Dwight isn't having any fun in L.A.

Coming into this season, the Lakers were severely over-hyped. Injuries to Howard, Steve Nash, Paul Gasol and Jordan Hill have hurt the team. Nash, who just turned 39, isn't physically able to be a  first-rate point guard any more. The bench is just so-so. If bench-warmer Earl Clark hadn't blossomed, this middle-of-the-pack team would be even worse.

There's a chance that Howard, who's getting much of the blame for this lousy season, won't even be a Laker much longer. Management claims they won't trade him by the deadline, which is this Wednesday, but for the right deal, who knows?

If he's not traded, Howard has no interest in a contract extension. The Lakers' chances of making the playoffs are slim. Even if they do inch in, they'll be rudely bounced out in the first round. If you think the anti-Howard sentiment is red-hot now, just wait until the playoff debacle. It's going to get real ugly.

Sources close to the two Laker players say Howard can't get out of L.A. fast enough.


If Howard came out and declared he hates the Lakers and won't re-sign after his contract is up, imagine ho how that would ruin this season for fans.