This summer, Dwight Howard did the unthinkable in the world of the NBA; he spurned the Los Angeles Lakers by declining to return to the city of Angels and heading for the Houston Rockets. After the Lakers created their “super-team” last off-season by trading for Howard, it fell apart just one year later after he left.
In typical Lakers fashion, though, the fans and the team began talking about their future. After all, they still have Pau Gasol, they still have whatever Steve Nash has left in the tank, of course they have Kobe Bryant once he returns from his Achilles injury, and they have a ton of cap-space available for the summer of 2014 with one free-agent class filled with stars.
Rumors have already been circulating about who the Lakers are going to target next summer and, as you would expect, the list is star-studded. Carmelo Anthony, Paul George and the biggest prize of them all, LeBron James, highlight the names that the Lakers are going to be gunning to sign a year from now.
From the beginning of those rumors, LeBron has seemed like a long shot. It’s hard to imagine him changing teams again after how “The Decision” hurt his image and it’s even harder to imagine him coming to play with Kobe. However, it seems like the other two players at the top of their list are long shots, as well.
On Tuesday when he was asked about possible heading to L.A., George said that he had a good thing going with the Indiana Pacers and that it would probably be for the best to stay in Indiana. Then on Wednesday, video surfaced of Melo being asked about potentially joining the Lakers to which he replied, “Uh, I doubt it.” Though it’s early and the Lakers haven’t been able to pitch to these players, their responses definitely don’t inspire confidence in the prospect of them coming to Los Angeles.
With Dwight deciding not to return to L.A. and with all of these 2014 free-agents not having much interest in coming to the Lakers, for now at least, there seems to be something strange happening in the land of purple and gold. It seems that the mystique surrounding the Lakers and playing for Los Angeles is fading.
With the passing of the legendary Dr. Jerry Buss, the team being handed over to Jim Buss, Kobe being in the ending stages of his career, and everything else that has happened and is happening in Laker-land, it’s clear that this is a franchise at a crossroads and, as of right now, it doesn’t look good.
Is it completely out of the question that the Lakers will land one of those free-agents next summer or another high-caliber player that’s on the market? Of course it isn’t; this is the Lakers and they can never be ruled out. You can’t take away the legends, you can’t take away the championship banners and you can’t take way what the Lakers mean to the NBA.
However, it does appear that Dwight not re-signing signifies that this is a make-or-break time for this organization. There’s history on the Lakers’ side, but the future may be a different story. They have continually made short-sighted moves and now they see the long-term and it’s a bit frightening. The aura of the Lakers simply isn’t what it used to be. That can still be fixed, but it needs to happen soon before it’s completely dissipated.