The Los Angeles Lakers are at a crossroads in their rich history with the — fortunate or unfortunate, depending on how you look at it — departure of Dwight Howard. The Lakers’ upcoming season is up in the air.
Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Steve Nash are future Hall of Famers and want to compete for titles. They don’t want to hear that they have to take a season off at this stage of their careers. Bryant’s frame of mind is not just to come back from injury but to come back better than ever — in year No. 18. Bryant is not the average athlete, he is a mutant.
Nash wants to bounce back from a down season where people, especially a person with the last name Howard, believed that the former two-time MVP had nothing left in the tank. Hearing this, Nash wants to have a strong season next year to prove the haters wrong.
Gasol has something to prove as well. Critics believe Gasol’s knees are finished, and that he is rapidly declining, but after a strong finish to the season with a few triple-doubles to show for it, Gasol believes the time off this offseason will get him back to 100 percent. Howard’s escape from Los Angeles won’t hurt him either, as Gasol will be the feature ‘big’ in the post once again — like he was when the Lakers won back-to-back titles in 2009 and 2010.
So, for the Lakers to tank the season, they would have to delay Bryant’s return from injury plus trade Gasol and Nash. None of those options are happening even though it makes plenty of basketball since. It is a plan inherited by the rival Boston Celtics.
The Celtics traded away Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and coach Doc Rivers in exchange for multiple draft picks. Tanking this season is their number one priority. And Boston is fully aware of the rewards of tanking next season.
Basketball phenom Andrew Wiggins will be entering the 2014 NBA Draft, and whoever lands the No. 1 lottery pick will gain his services.Wiggins is looked upon as a once-in-a-generation type talent and has the ability to turn a franchise around.
So why won’t the Lake Show get involved in the Wiggins sweepstakes? That’s not how they conduct their business.
The Lakers brand was built on winning. When the Lakers landed greats Magic Johnson and James Worthy, they acquired those No. 1 picks via trade. When the Lakers acquired the great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, they traded away a top draft pick to do so. When the Lakers acquired the dominant Shaquille O’Neal, they lured him away from Orlando through free agency.
When the Lakers acquired the services of a flashy, supremely talented young Bryant, they traded away one of the better centers in the league, Vlade Divac, to the then-Charlotte Hornets. Bryant was the 13th pick of the 1996 NBA Draft.
Bottom line: the Lakers do not tank seasons to get better. The Lakers builds their teams through trades and free agency.
Players will continue to want to wear the purple and gold, greet ‘Jack’ court side and enjoy all the perks in Hollywood of being a part of the Lakers’ organization.
It is less common to find players like Howard who will leave money on the table to not play for the Lakers, but on the flip-side, Howard is not the type of player that succeeds in Los Angeles anyway. Howard is coward, yeah it rhymes, but seriously, he is.
Shaq is right, the lights are too bright, again I’m rhyming, for Howard. He wants to be comfortable where he plays and let’s face it, in Hollywood, the Lakers reign supreme. As good as the Los Angeles Clippers have gotten over the last two-plus years, the Lakers still dominate the headlines in Los Angeles
Howard does not have the intangibles of being the face of the Lakers’ franchise and leading them to a title. His departure is a blessing in disguise for Laker Nation.
The Lakers will be major players in the offseason of 2014, so regardless if the Lakers have a lame duck season (likely senario) or a deep playoff run (unlikely senario), the next offseason is where the Lakers will transform back into a championship contender.
Laker fans, be patient for one season with another playoff exit or worst, it will all be worth it.