Ric Bucher and Marc Stein of ESPN have both reported the Orlando Magic are now exploring other trade options for Dwight Howard after the Cleveland Cavaliers look to have pulled themselves out of a trade that would have sent the All-Star to Brooklyn.
The Rockets would either acquire Howard directly from the Orlando Magic for first-round draft choices and salary cap relief or the Rockets would help facilitate a trade that would send Howard to Los Angeles with Andrew Bynum ending up in Houston.
There is no denying the possibility of pairing Howard alongside Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash is intriguing. Howard has been in desperate need of a true point guard for years now, and even at 33-years-old Bryant would be the best pure scorer Howard has ever played with.
But without a guarantee to sign a long-term extension from Howard himself, is trading for the big seven-footer worth the asking price and the risk for the Lakers?
The Lakers are taking a large leap of faith by believing Los Angeles would sell itself and appeal to Howard once he arrived. Up to this point, Howard has made no claims he would sign a long-term agreement with any team outside of the Brooklyn Nets.
Andrew Bynum is a much safer bet on this front. Bynum has made it very clear he desires to stay in L.A., and would only consider moving on if he was traded or a deal with the Lakers could not be worked out.
The Steve Nash acquisition was huge for the Lakers, and made Los Angeles instant favorites to return to the NBA finals. But did this move make the Lakers look even less appealing to Dwight Howard?
Kobe Bryant is 33-years-old, Pau Gasol is 31-years-old and Steve Nash is 38-years-old. Howard can read the writing on the wall and see the long-term success of this franchise is not with the team.
Plus with a 28-year-old Deron Williams (10 years younger than Nash), 31-year-old Joe Johnson (two years younger than Kobe) and 29-year-old Gerald Wallace (two years younger than Gasol and three years younger than Metta World Peace) all whispering in his ear, will Dwight ever be happy or play his hardest for the Lakers?
Howard has shown little maturity over the handling of his contract situation. It has not affected his play so far, but no one knows what Howard would do if he is traded to L.A. Does Howard have the drive and focus to play passionate basketball for a large market team that he does not want to be with?
In addition, Howard’s reluctance to join L.A. has already stemmed from a conversation he had with Lakers’ superstar Kobe Bryant. As Alex Groberman of opposingviews.com points out, Howard was put off by a conversation he had with Kobe last year.
In the conversation, Kobe made it clear to Howard that his role would be one of a defensive specialist and enforcer. Not a No. 1 scoring option as he so desires. The addition of Nash to this equation could even further scare Howard off, and make Howard even more reluctant to consider the Lakers as a long-term destination no matter the success they may have together for one season.
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports took the report one step further by stating,
Bryant will not recruit Howard to reaffirm the Lakers as part of Howard's list of teams that he’s willing to accept a trade and sign a long-term extension. For several reasons – including Bryant's respect for teammate Andrew Bynum – the odds of Bryant picking up the phone and calling are remote. Bryant would welcome Howard as a teammate, sources say, but he’s shown no inclination to be part of a process of trying convince him to come.
Where will Dwight Howard end up playing?
In addition, running the assumption Howard, Nash and Kobe would have immediate success is premature. With Nash, Bryant, Pau Gasol and Metta World Peace all 30-plus-years-old, there is no guarantee any would stay healthy for a legitimate championship run with Howard.
Plus, Howard’s true talents may not align well with the talent that is already in Los Angeles.
After years of watching coach Mike Brown try to control and run a offense through LeBron James here in Cleveland, I question how Howard would fit with the Lakers and Brown’s style (or lack thereof) of offense. Howard’s offensive strengths stem from his ability to use his athleticism to create easy baskets and return to the defensive end of the floor to act as a defensive stopper and shot blocker.
Dwight is athletically gifted, and uses his athleticism to his advantage. The Lakers' system with Mike Brown and the roster that is in place is made to run the half-court offense and will not allow Howard to show his true skills.
If Lakers fans think the addition of Nash may propel Mike Brown to change his style of offense to suit the newest additions to the Lakers, well think again. Brown did not change his offense for the best player in the world in LeBron James. Brown is convinced his systems will work, and tried to force the most athletically gifted basketball player in the world to run half-court sets. The same will continue to be done for the Lakers with the addition of Nash and with or without Howard.
The continued interest in Howard by the Lakers is understandable. He’s a talented and gifted defender that can dominate the game on both ends of the floor. He also runs the floor better than any starter on the Lakers and is in peak physical condition.
But is it going to be worth it in the end? Are the Lakers willing to throw caution to the wind and relinquish an All-Star-caliber center in Andrew Bynum for another one that is likely to leave after one season?
This can absolutely not happen for Los Angeles. As exciting as the video game team the Lakers would become with Howard in the fold, it hardly guarantees a championship for the Lakers next season in the real world.
Without an immediate championship, there is no guarantee the Lakers would be able to convince Howard to sign a long-term contract extension, and the Lakers would be set back for many years to come.