5 Reasons Why the Los Angeles Lakers Will Be Better Off Without Dwight Howard
Lakers Actually Better Off Without Dwight Howard
The Dwight Howard experiment lasted all of one season and was a complete disaster for the Los Angeles Lakers. That’s not to say the experiment was a waste of time, just that it failed to execute how the Lakers front office thought it would. Howard joined the Houston Rockets in the offseason, officially ending the experiment and saving the Lakers any further headaches.
Howard ended his eight-year career with the Orlando Magic in a tumultuous fashion. He asked for a trade, then signed his player option, then became disgruntled again and asked for another trade. The Magic finally found a trading partner and shipped the frustrated Howard to the Lakers.
Fans knew the Lakers were hoping Howard would perk up, be willing to play alongside Kobe Bryant and become the franchise’s future star. But you knew their pipe dream was dead when Kobe, Steve Nash and Howard were interviewed during a preseason practice. The interviewer asked all three whose team the Lakers were, which Kobe and Nash were quick to answer correctly -- Kobe’s team -- while Howard was quick to say it was everyone’s team.
The Lakers bent over backwards to make Howard happy in L.A., but he always found something to complain about. There was always tension between Kobe and Howard -- which, again, should have been noticed during the practice interview -- and tension between head coach Mike D’Antoni and Howard. Howard couldn’t handle the pressure and wasn’t performing like they needed him to, so he blamed everyone else.
With Howard gone, the Lakers can officially begin their rebuilding process. That process won’t start this season, but here are five reasons the Lakers will be better off without Howard.
5. Kobe Bryant No Longer Has To Look Over His Shoulder
Before the 2012-13 season began, Kobe Bryant had made his retirement plans known: two more seasons. Those two seasons would be through the end of his contract. It didn’t appear Kobe had any plans to play any longer, but that all changed last season.
Bringing in Dwight Howard gave Kobe his first actual reality check that the Lakers wouldn’t be his team forever. Kobe talked about helping Howard become the franchise player the Lakers would need when Kobe retired, but that meant sharing the team, which Kobe had no interest in doing.
With Howard out of the picture and the Lakers needing to find another potential franchise player, Kobe has his beloved team back under his grasp, and now he has no intention of letting them go. He has made it known that he wants to play for a few more seasons now -- instead of retiring at the end of this year -- and if he does, he won’t have to worry about being replaced while in the league.
4. Pau Gasol Returns to Center
When you’re a 7-foot tall basketball player, playing the center position is a given. Pau Gasol has played his best at the center position during this 12-year NBA career. He helped lead the Lakers to three straight NBA Finals, including back-to-back championships while playing the center position along with Andrew Bynum.
So you would think that the Lakers would want to keep Gasol at the center position if it meant he was going to be at his best each game, but that was not the case. The Lakers could have simply traded Bynum for a power forward, but they opted to use Bynum to pull off the Dwight Howard mega-deal.
Gasol floundered in Mike D’Antoni’s system while at power forward, but showed signs of life when he slid to center whenever Howard was dealing with injuries. Now with Howard and Bynum out of the picture, Gasol can reclaim his spot and help lead the Lakers back to prominence.
3. Mike D’Antoni Can Run the Lakers His Way
When the Lakers passed over Phil Jackson for Mike D’Antoni last season, everyone thought they were crazy. Those fears have not been alleviated yet as D’Antoni never had a real opportunity to prove his naysayers wrong. That all changes this season as D’Antoni’s biggest nemesis, Dwight Howard, is no longer with the team.
Howard spent his entire career being the No. 1 option in the Magic’s offense, and he felt D’Antoni’s offense did not mesh with his skills. They didn’t in some ways, but Howard failed to even embrace change, so no matter what D’Antoni tried, the relationship was never going to work.
With Howard out of the picture, D’Antoni gets to run his offense the way wants, and the way he envisioned when the Lakers named him their new head coach last season.
2. Lakers Not Handcuffed to Dwight Howard’s $118 Million Contract
Had Dwight Howard re-signed with the Lakers, it would have been a five-year, $118 million contract. A contract of that size would have put the Lakers in a bind when it came to trying to re-sign Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol in the offseason, or even trying to lure and of the top free agents out to L.A.
It also means they don’t have to keep Howard happy for the next five years, something they did all last season and into the offseason. Now they can focus all their efforts on keeping Kobe happy and trying to win the team’s 17th championship.
1. Lakers Get a do-over in Finding Their Next Franchise Player
One reason why the Lakers wanted to trade for Dwight Howard had to do with Kobe Bryant’s desire to retire after the 2013-14 season. The front office knew they would need a marketable franchise player to replace Kobe, something they were not going to find in the draft since they have no intention in “Riggin for Wiggins”. Howard had repeatedly said he did not want to be traded to the Lakers, so it’s still a mystery as to if he was okay with the trade to begin with.
With Howard gone, the Lakers have to restart their search for their next franchise player. They are lucky in the fact that the 2014 free agency class could be full of some of the best talent in the NBA including Lebron James, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh. The Lakers will also have plenty of cap space to make a run at one of the top free agents along with attempting to re-sign Kobe Bryant, who will be a free agent as well.