When the Los Angeles Lakers made the move to bring Dwight Howard to LA, they knew they wanted their future to rest on the big man’s surgically repaired shoulders. They knew they would push to get him to re-sign with them after the season came to an end, and they knew they wanted him to take the torch from Kobe Bryant when it was time for the aging superstar to pass it on. They knew they wanted all of these things, they just didn’t know they would need them to happen so soon.
Here they are though, with just nine games left in the season, and their chances for a playoff spot are uncertain at best. They are now sitting on the outside looking in after losing four of their last five and allowing the Utah Jazz to catch up to them. Despite their wins and losses being the exact same, the Jazz own the tie breaker which puts them in possession of the eighth and final playoff spot.
Bryant, Metta World Peace and Steve Nash are all dealing with injuries that will either be keeping them out of the lineup, or will undoubtedly hamper their ability on the floor. Pau Gasol is somewhat healthy, but he still seems out of sorts with coach Mike D’Antoni’s offense. He has averaged an uncharacteristic 10 points per game and just .435% field goal percentage during his four games back from an injury that had kept him out of the lineup since the beginning of February. This leaves the team dependant on Dwight Howard to carry them to the end of the season.
Sure, Bryant and Nash will be on the floor again; they will do their part to will the Lakers to a playoff spot, but it has to be Howard who puts the team on his back and leads them there.
Howard has had a nice streak going on over the last 18 games, gathering double-digit rebounds in each contest. Many of those numbers are the 15 plus type, and he has averaged a shade over 17 points a game over the same time span. There is no doubt that Howard has been playing at a high level, but the Lakers are going to need him to push even harder if they are going to make the playoffs.
After all of the hardships this season, if the Lakers were simply able to make it to the playoffs, they would likely call it a victory. Yes, the Lakers are a team that plays for championships, not the playoffs, but this year is different. All of the roster changes, the injuries and the rumored in-fighting have threatened to crumble the paper powerhouse.
If they are able to plow through the upcoming schedule (no easy task) and make it to the NBA postseason, the organization could call the season a success — something that would go a long ways towards getting Howard to commit long term.