Dwight Howard is a Laker. The #Dwightmare, as the Internet has so cleverly dubbed the past year of D-12 drama, is finally over.
To start with, I’m just glad I don’t have to read another rumor on Twitter about where the big man might end up. I mean, think about it: Howard was close to being a Rocket, a Net, a Hawk, and I think he was supposed to be a Maverick and a Clipper at one point also. The whole scenario played itself out. It was on the verge of Brett Favre territory.
So, yes, I’m happy it’s over and I’m even happier that Howard is a member of the Los Angeles Lakers. It’s where he belonged. Not so much because it’s Los Angeles, but because of what that team now provides the league and its fans.
It’s a storyline that will be great for ratings and sure to light a fire under other top teams, like the Heat and Thunder. You want the best players in your league playing in the Finals, and this trade takes two of the most exciting players in the league – Kobe Bryant and Howard – and places them right in the thick of the quest for the Finals.
How could a basketball fan not look forward to this kind of excitement? I’m so tired of hearing people complain about players going to big market teams. What would you rather them do, go sign a five-year deal in Cleveland? So then their team can be a perennial 5-seed and bow out after a round or two. We’ve seen that movie before.
LeBron James didn’t leave Cleveland because it’s a crappy city or because the money wasn’t right; he wanted to win. Dwight Howard was going to be a free agent at the end of next season, why would he want to stay in Orlando, where the premier acquisition in recent years was Glen “Big Baby” Davis?
Get real. He couldn’t go to Houston because he would be in the same situation. He’d be the man on a bad team, and he isn’t the type of player that can win by himself. He needs a good point guard that can get him easy baskets – Steve Nash – so he can expend most of his energy on the defensive end, where he makes his money.
Howard needs another superstar that can close out a game – Shaq needed the same thing, as dominant as he was. In Kobe, Howard now has arguably the best closer of the past decade, ready for one or two more runs at a ring.
You think last June was captivating TV? Wait until the Conference Finals start this season and we possibly get Miami vs. Boston in the best grudge match of this era, and Oklahoma City vs. Los Angeles in a battle of the titans. I’m literally salivating at the thought of postseason basketball next season.
And for all those people crying out for the small market teams and their inability to bring in high profile free agents – is this a new phenomenon? Players want to play under the bright lights and in big markets, but all hope isn’t lost. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook signed huge extensions in OKC because the organization created a culture of winning. That’s the blueprint.
If you want players to stay after you draft them, build a good team around them. Find a general manager that knows how to find the gems in the draft. Look at San Antonio, the Spurs have been doing it for 15 years.
The alternative is getting five to seven years out of a superstar and then watching him leave for the exact reasons I’ve stated here, not the exaggerations of an aggravated fan base.
Orlando had to get rid of Howard. The four teams in the deal got great value. The Magic were going to lose Howard for nothing after the season, they added three first round picks and Aaron Afflalo and Al Harrington, who are good players to plug in while in transition. By the time the team rebuilds those contracts will be off the books.
Let’s face it, Orlando was going to have to rebuild after this whole thing anyway. Do you really think a package from the Rockets was going to place the team in the top 10? No way in hell.
Magic general manager Rob Hennigan is blowing everything up and starting over. There is sure to be a franchise player available in the next two or three drafts and Orlando will now be in position to grab one. A team isn’t going to get a high lottery pick for a troubled superstar – Howard being the poster child for headache player – who won’t even sign long-term deal.
I loved the deal for the Denver Nuggets. Andre Iguodala is in the prime of his career and desperately needed a change of scenery. He will always be the “A.I. part 2” that didn’t live up to his predecessor in Philadelphia. He isn’t a top tier superstar and needed to go to a place where he can be a part of a team with two or three other solid options. Ty Lawson, Danilo Gallinari, and Javale McGee create an interesting, athletic four-some out in Denver that could make some noise.
Andrew Bynum may end up being the biggest piece in this trade. Some argue that Bynum is a better all-around player than Howard. A scroll through the Philadelphia roster, top to bottom, makes you wonder if the 76ers may have something to work with going forward. I think Bynum has a chance to break out in his new city and that could elevate Philly to the top of the Eastern Conference.
The Lakers have added pieces – big pieces – but it will be interesting to see how they mesh. Remember Miami didn’t come together right away after the Big 3 joined forces in South Beach. But one thing is for sure, the league just got a bit more exciting and I, for one, can’t wait for tip off this season.