With the addition of Steve Nash and the increasing uncertainty over whether Dwight Howard will be a member of the Los Angeles Lakers before the start of next season, here are the top four burning questions surrounding the NBA's media darling:
Will Kobe Bryant retire in two seasons when his contract is up?
If there was ever a word in the English vocabulary more emphatic than no, it would be used here. Let's just go down the checklist of reasons why that is the case:
Is he still playing at a high level? Check.
Has he managed to avoid any signs that his game may take a steep turn for the worse? Check.
Is he one of the few athletes that has proven to have almost no semblance of a life outside of his respective sport? Check.
Has he managed to mitigate all the wear and tear his body has taken over the course of his career by undergoing all kinds of strange procedures? Check.
Is the all-time scoring record still within his grasp? Check.
Is he so unbelievably competitive that he'd come up with something as bogus as a premature retirement to put the onus on management to get him a better supporting cast? Check.
The Magic 8 ball says don't count on it.
Is the addition of Steve Nash enough to push the Los Angeles Lakers over the top?
If this were ever really the case, a lot of those Dwight Howard to LA rumors would have come to a screeching halt. Instead, most Laker fans smartly realize that the addition of Nash only opens the door further for a Dwight deal.
Nash will provide a much needed culture change that will both spread and speed up the Lakers offense, but also leave them as vulnerable at the defensive end as when Derek Fisher was on the team.
At the end of the day, the Lakers know they need Dwight's defense and athleticism to: elevate them to a legit championship contender; elevate Kobe's ranking on the list of the greatest players of all time; be the guy that Kobe passes the Laker torch to.
And if they don't get him, they will be hard-pressed to beat the younger, hungrier, and more athletic Oklahoma City Thunder.
Which player on the Los Angeles Lakers will benefit most from the addition of Steve Nash?
The issue in LA over the past year and a half hasn't been so much that Andrew Bynum leapfrogged Gasol as the team's second scorer, but that Kobe averaged an ungodly amount of shots at the expense of Gasol's offensive fluidity. As a result, critics have argued to Gasol's defense that he is a tragic hero of sorts, who is unfairly labelled as the team's scapegoat whenever things go wrong.
Now, Gasol will finally have a chance to validate those objections and play a more consistent role with the team. These are the kind of little things that have made Steve Nash a perennial MVP candidate. Not only does he make everyone better, but he's also like an arbiter of truth when it comes to a team's strengths and deficiencies.
Will the Los Angeles Lakers get Dwight Howard?
Yes, but not until the trading deadline.
The Magic will wait until the eleventh hour before finally relenting to the best deal they have left on the table. Will it be a PR disaster for them? Yes, but they don't really have a choice.
Dwight Howard mismanaged his free agency so terribly that he basically forced both the bidders and seller into a glorified game of chicken. Nevertheless, there are two constants that have rung true throughout this saga.
1. The Magic only have a finite amount of time before their leverage runs out.
2. The Magic are more desperate to get value for him than any team is to give value for him. Thus far, no team has offered anything better than the Lakers, whether it be through a straight trade or multi-team deal. That's why he almost went to LA last year during the trade deadline, and that's why he will end up going there this year. Only, this time, he'll actually want to be there because Nash will make sure Kobe doesn't marginalize his role on the team.