Los Angeles center Dwight Howard is the most sought after free agent in the market. Several teams have met with Howard including the Houston Rockets, Atlanta Hawks, Golden State Warriors, Dallas Mavericks, and the Los Angeles Lakers. While Howard didn’t have one of his best seasons in L.A. due to various injuries and chemistry issues, teams have pulled out all the stops to entice the NBA’s most dominant big man.
After presentations by these aforementioned teams, the Lakers were the last to present to Howard. Aside from the fact that L.A. can offer Howard a maximum of $118 million over 5 seasons (other teams can only give $88 million, 4 years), it was reported that resident superstar Kobe Bryant challenged Howard during the meeting telling him “let me teach you how to be a champion.” After the meeting, Howard flew to Colorado for a short retreat with his representatives before making the big decision.
Despite the glamour of playing in L.A. and the chance to continue a championship heritage, it is quite unlikely that Howard will sign a long-term contract with the Lakers. The No. 1 reason is Kobe Bryant.
The Lakers may have made a strategic error when it brought along Bryant in the meeting. Instead of coaxing Howard to stay, Bryant may have further aggravated the big man by telling him that he needs Bryant to “learn and win championships.” It is not a secret that these stars don’t get along on and off the court. For starters, Howard’s lighthearted antics never sat well with Bryant who is relentlessly focused and demands the same from his teammates. Additionally, Bryant’s presence means that Howard will never be the alpha dog in L.A.
Another factor is that L.A.’s core players (Bryant, Ron Artest, Pau Gasol, and Steve Nash) are all past their prime while Howard is just about to enter his. The Lakers, with its current contracts, are in salary tax territory and don’t have the flexibility to add significant pieces to its roster. Their only hope is that Howard will be enough to power them over the hump. The Lakers are an ageing team and will be hard-pressed to compete with the Oklahoma City Thunder and the rejuvenated L.A. Clippers.
Another reason is head coach Mike D’Antoni, whose offense simply doesn’t fit Howard’s style of play. D’Antoni has long been known for his quick offensive sets and he will not start dumping the ball to Howard in isolation. Howard, meanwhile, has a reputation for being a “coach killer” (remember Stan Van Gundy in Orlando?). By keeping D’Antoni, the Lakers have sent a strong message that the system comes first before individuals. Additionally, Nash and Bryant are strong supporters of D’Antoni so Howard needs to adjust his game if he stays in L.A.
Currently, the Houston Rockets are the frontrunners in the Howard sweepstakes. They have the money to give him a max contract over 4 years. They likewise boast of a young core composed of James Harden, Chandler Parsons, and Jeremy Lin. Reportedly, the Rockets are willing to build the team and the offense around Howard which would make this a good destination for D12.
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