Fans of the Los Angeles Lakers have been accused of many things. We have been called shallow, indifferent, opportunistic spectators who might deign to take in a few minutes of basketball action in the rare event that some new piece of iPhone trivium hasn’t commanded our full attention at a Lakers game.
But you know what we’ve never been accused of? Groveling. That’s small-town stuff. No player—not even the legendary Shaquille O’Neal—is too big for this city. Shaq’s departure was a disappointment, but Laker nation did not beg him to stay or launch a massive publicity campaign to change his heart at the eleventh hour. We simply accepted that we might have to sit through a couple years of Kwame Brown, Smush Parker and Brian Cook before our inevitable return to title contention.
So, imagine my surprise when I saw the pictures of #stayD12 posters popping up all over town like some Citi Bike-esque eyesore (only instead of being useful, it’s just humiliating), culminating in this absurdly craven display on the side of the Beverly Hills Hotel.
That’s right, the same hotel that once served as the album cover for one of the greatest recordings of all time now bears humiliating witness to a misguided campaign to keep a player who never really wanted to be here in the first place.
Do we really need to invest more resources in the saga of Dwight Howard? Was last year’s $19.5 million not enough?
More to the point, why the desperation? So we can see a center past his prime throw running hooks off the backboard and miss free throws for the next five years? So we can fill the seats at Staples Center every night, praying that our max-contract player doesn’t fall to another back injury? As anyone with back problems knows well, they never truly go away. Remember T-Mac? Amar’e? Baron Davis? All have had their careers altered by chronic back issues. So Jim Buss can throw up his hands and say, “Oh well, at least I tried!” when things don’t work out?
The biggest strike against Howard, however, is not his awful free-throw stroke, or his reduced mobility, or his history of injuries; it is his terrible attitude that has been a huge distraction to both the Lakers and the Orlando Magic in recent years, an attitude undeserving of a maximum contract.
By the way, if the Howard for Blake Griffin and Eric Bledsoe trade was really on the table last month, the Lakers were idiots not to take it in a heartbeat.
Let’s be clear—Howard is not a bad guy. In fact, he seems like a pretty good guy to be around, all things considered. To the best of our knowledge, he’s affable in his personal interactions with fans, he looks like he’s having a good time out on the court and he hasn’t been accused of any felonies (which gives him points over a certain other big-name Laker, but I digress).
Nevertheless, the center has displayed an immaturity in his dealings with his respective teams and the media that indicates he is not ready to assume the responsibility inherent in the type of contract to which the Lakers would need to sign him. He has made waffling public statements when such statements are unwarranted and unnecessary, he has accused fans of being “ungrateful” and he appears completely incapable of making firm commitments. Those are not the qualities you look for in a champion, and a player who displays them certainly does not deserve the sort of shameful, reprobate obsequiousness that the Lakers have shown in this poster campaign.
It’s depressing enough being a Lakers fan nowadays. Even if Howard leaves, Los Angeles is still weighed down by the massive contracts of Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol, while the roster isn’t exactly full of tradable assets.
So, I’m begging you, Jim Buss, Mitch Kupchak or whoever is responsible for this ill-advised campaign, please, take it all down. Now, this is not 2009. He’s not that good anymore. Letting go is hard, but we’ll be better off in the long run. Besides, he was never really into us, and the sooner we accept that, the happier we will be.
Tony Baker is a Los Angeles Angels blogger for Rant Sports. You can follow him on Twitter at @tonloc_baker.