Waking up from the Dwight-mare
It’s finally over. The failed experiment that was Dwight Howard playing for the Los Angeles Lakers finally ended when the infamously fickle free agent center announced via Twitter, “I’ve decided to become a member of the Houston Rockets. I feel it’s the best place for me and I am excited about joining the Rockets and I’m looking forward to a great season. I want to thank the fans in Los Angeles and wish them the best.”
The 27-year-old two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year was the prize in this 2013 free agent class. For the 16-time World Champion Lakers, when they traded for Howard from the Orlando Magic before the start of the 2012-2013 season, they were sure that the allure for playing for a franchise with the pedigree of the Lakers would be enough to keep him in L.A. The endorsement opportunities and the bright lights of playing in Hollywood sweetened the pot, not to mention an additional $30 million that no other team could offer.
However, if there was one thing made evidently clear in his one season calling Staples Center home, it’s that Dwight Howard never was a Laker. This was a man, fresh off back surgery, wanted Stan Van Gundy out while he was still coaching the Magic. He then waffled on whether he wanted to stay in Orlando or get out of town. He also sent signals that he wanted to sign with Brooklyn, or maybe the Lakers, or maybe the Clippers.
This is the same guy who bristled under then-Laker coach Mike Brown and certainly didn’t ease Brown’s exit from the Laker bench. Howard then refused to play the pick-and-roll consistently with Steve Nash, even if that would have resulted in easy baskets for him under new Laker coach Mike D’Antoni.
Finally, Dwight Howard is the guy who, after playing with hardly any effort to endear himself to Los Angeles natives, got himself thrown out of the Lakers’ final playoff game versus the San Antonio Spurs.
After flirting with his hometown Atlanta Hawks and the chance to play with good friend Josh Smith, Howard also played footsie with Mark Cuban, Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks. He supposedly considered joining the Golden State Warriors because of their young roster too.
At the end of everything though, he chose to go to Houston and play for coach Kevin McHale as well as James Harden, Jeremy Lin and Chandler Parsons.
Lakers voice their disappointment
According to Steve Nash, when the Lakers entered into the final pitch for Howard after days of mounting oversized billboards around downtown Los Angeles, he could already sense that the center’s mind had been closed.
Nash said, “We didn’t really have a chance and I’d like to think that after the meeting we had a chance.” He went on to say that, “Ultimately, I think Dwight wasn’t comfortable here and didn’t want to be here and I think if he didn't want to be here, there’s no point for anyone in him being here. "
Imagine the disappointment in Nash, the ultimate team player, who requested a trade to the Lakers in the same offseason, to realize that this young big man just gave up. “So, we wish him the best and move on,” Nash said.
Since Howard’s decision, several voices from the Lakers’ said have spoken up. Shaquille O’Neal, one of Howard’s critics since his entry into the league and a four-time NBA Champion himself, said, “It was expected. We’ve all been in L.A., and not a whole lot of people can handle being under the bright lights. Everybody wants to do it, but when you get there, there are certain pressures. I think it was a safe move for him to go to a little town like Houston.”
Hall-of-Fame center and six-time NBA Champion Kareem Abdul-Jabbar lamented Howard’s departure as he noted that, “potential has a shelf life.”
Howard supposedly reached out to Abdul-Jabbar when he first joined the Lakers, but the youngster never followed up on the six-time Most Valuable Player’s offer to help with his offensive moves. "[Howard] hasn't made any progress,” noted Kareem. “We (the Lakers when Kareem was an assistant coach) played them in ‘09, and when I saw him this past season, he was the same player.”
He went on to say, “He gets the ball on offense, oh my god, he doesn’t know what to do. It’s usually a turnover. People come and take the ball from him or tie his arms up. Offensively, he doesn’t get it.”
Black Mamba weighs in
For the biggest current name on the Lakers roster, Kobe Bryant is more focused on his own rehab from season-ending Achilles tendon surgery to wail at his former teammate. Within moments of Howard’s L.A.-leaving tweets, Bryant unfollowed the big man on Twitter and Instagram before posting his own photo with beloved but maligned Spaniard Pau Gasol.
Speaking at his annual youth basketball academy, the five-time NBA Champion said, “You look at me, you really think once a guy decides to go someplace else, I’m going to waste my time trying to figure out what happened?”
The two-time Finals MVP proceeded to state his feelings for D12, “I’m happy for him. It’s important for free agents to make decisions that they feel is best for them. That’s really what it’s about, being a free agent. You have to make decisions that you feel is best for you, best for your family, and best for your brand, whatever it may be. So, it is what it is.”
Dwight wanted the torch passed?
It’s a practical, pragmatic observation on the 17-year NBA veteran’s part as he ponders how his and the Lakers’ championship chances have shrank considerably because of Howard’s move.
Recent information has come out stating how Howard wanted Bryant to give him control of the Lakers as soon as possible. Sources told ESPN.com that Howard and his representatives, in meetings with Laker officials before becoming a free agent on July 1, suggested the center might not re-sign with the team if Kobe stayed with the franchise beyond the final year of his contract in the 2013-2014 season.
The sheer arrogance of that statement is enough to inspire rage among all Laker fans worldwide, especially coming from someone whose heart, development, and desire are all questionable.
No matter what Dwight Howard does for the Rockets, whether it results in even one championship, as far as the Los Angeles Lakers and their fans go, this will go down as one of the biggest failed experiments and disappointments in the team’s glorious history.