by A.J. Coltrane
Dwight Howard finally got what he wanted. Out.
I think there’s a broad public perception that Howard is the best center in the league right now, and by extension that makes him one of the All Time Greats. What’s the reaction going to be when he’s exposed as not really being at that level? He’s not Kareem or Wilt or Shaq… Dwight is basically Patrick Ewing minus some offense, and Patrick wasn’t quite good enough to bring a title to New York. Will Lakers’ fans turn on him in three years when they haven’t won a championship? At that point Kobe and Nash will be retired or nearly so, and Gasol will be pretty old. Then what?
A more immediate concern: Dwight, Kobe, Nash, Gasol — who is the Lakers’ best player and who takes the shots when it matters? Kobe is still going to be the alpha dog, and I’m going to bet he continues to take the shots for the next couple of years, though I don’t think his body will allow him to “finish” games at an elite level; I think those days have already come and gone. Who’s going to take the blame when the Lakers can’t quite get there? It won’t be Kobe.
There’s also the little issue that the Lakers’ have a really old backcourt. Who guards Russell Westbrook? Or Derrick Rose? Or Chris Paul? Or Dwayne Wade? Or…
What it comes down to (and this is what Carmelo Anthony is running into in New York), is the question: “With Dwight Howard as your best player, can you win a championship?” The jury is still out on Carmelo (though I’m of the firm opinion that the answer is “No”.)
I think that the answer for Howard is “no” as well.
Item That Really Only Fits As Sort Of A Postscript:
I think it’s interesting that nobody wanted to join Howard in Orlando. Why do you figure that is?
In other news: Finaaallly, the trade is done, and we can talk about something, anything, else.
Bill Simmons, of course, has this terrific take on it. He’s more of the opinion that it’s a huge win for the Lakers, though he also includes this bit:
“…In April, after the Lakers win 65 games and everyone is getting psyched for a Heat-Lakers Finals, nobody will care that Howard acted like such a big baby. We’ll be busy with crap like ranking him against the other great Lakers centers of all time. That’s just how sports works.
(Well, unless the 2013 Lakers don’t realize their potential. And then? Get ready for chaos.)”
[There are some similar thoughts to mine in the Simmons piece. fwiw – I wrote my bit, then read his.]
[Late edit: Vegas loved the trade too — the Lakers leapfrogged the Thunder and into the second best odds of a 2013 championship, behind only the Heat.]