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NBA Los Angeles Lakers

Los Angeles Lakers Making Big Mistake By Keeping Dwight Howard

Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

With each passing day, it seems that Dwight Howard is creating another enemy. Reports have surfaced that the big man managed to irk San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich during the All-Star Game. Instead of paying attention to Popovich in the huddle, Howard was off to the side in his warmups interacting with courtside celebrities.

If the reports are true, that’s just another strike to Howard’s deteriorating public image.

On the court, Howard deserves props for playing through a back and shoulder injury. Playing at less than 100 percent, he still leads the league with 11.8 rebounds per game while averaging 2.3 blocks. If he ever gets back to full health, he’s easily the top center in the league.

But with the trade deadline just hours away, the Los Angeles Lakers have repeatedly said that they will not shop their star center. That decision will ultimately hurt them both in the short and long term. For the remainder of this season, Los Angeles’ playoff hopes are in doubt after getting off to a very slow start. Not having Pau Gasol is one reason why they might not see the postseason, but Howard, Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and head coach Mike D’Antoni have had difficulty co-existing, which is the greater issue. Depth is another concern.

More importantly, the organization must have their concerns focused beyond the 2012-13 season. Bryant and the Lakers’ fan base live in a championship-or-bust mentality. With Bryant hinting that his time in the NBA is coming to a close, the Lakers have to make one final push at a title run. On the other hand, it’s been well-documented that Howard does not possess the killer instinct that Bryant has, and demands from his teammates. With the way things are working out, it’s hard to envision Howard and Bryant winning a championship together.

During his time with the Orlando Magic, Howard was an outstanding individual player. However, when it came to winning, his team always fell short. The Magic made the playoffs over the past six seasons, and had a first-round exit three times (although Howard was not active in last season’s first-round loss). He’ll post eye-popping stat lines, but when it boils down to performing in the clutch, will he shine? I have my doubts. Making the postseason is simply not enough in Los Angeles.

Howard’s trade value is certainly at a low point right now given his health and impending free-agent status. Based on their lack of success thus far, the Lakers should just admit his acquisition was a mistake, and take what they can get. The three-time Defensive Player of the Year might even leave Los Angeles at season’s end, and the Lakers will be left empty-handed. Barring a dramatic change of heart within the next handful of hours, Howard will remain a Laker. That’s a mistake that the front office could regret down the road.

The clock is ticking on the Lakers and Bryant’s window of capturing another title. Getting Howard out of Hollywood would have been an ideal start.

You can follow Travis on Twitter @TravisChan1