The Dwight Howard saga is over and Lakers fans are understandably overjoyed by the arrival of the best center in the game. However, let's hold off on the pre-ordering of the 2012-13 championship merchandise, Lakers fans. Let's wait a little before planning the ticker tape parade in the City of Angels.
There are a few factors to consider before getting too wrapped up in Superman flying into LA.
For starters, this isn't a huge upgrade. Los Angeles dealt the second-best big man in the NBA for the guy a spot ahead of him. It's like the Saints trading Drew Brees for Aaron Rodgers. The Lakers won a championship with Andrew Bynum and could have done so again this year. They didn't NEED Dwight Howard. In terms of impact, the Steve Nash deal was much bigger for LA.
Secondly, Howard is coming off back surgery. The expectation is that he'll make a full recovery and go back to being the guy who was a three-time Defensive Player of the Year. That's not a certainty though. Back issues are always troublesome, especially for big guys. Back troubles limited former Knicks forward Larry Johnson. He eventually retired at 32.
Granted, tremendous advances in the medical field have been made since LJ called it a career in 2001. Still, we don't know the toll all of the constant running and jumping will have on Howard's back. He might call himself Superman but he's not literally a man of steel. It's not impossible to see his back becoming an issue.
There's also the issue of the assemblance of the new "Big Four." We've seen this movie before. Remember when the Lakers tried to build an All-Star team by adding Karl Malone and Gary Payton to the Shaq-Kobe tandem? It got the Lakers to the Finals but it was ultimately disappointing.
In the 2012 version, somebody is going to have to agree to be the fourth wheel. More than likely, that guy will be Steve Nash. Still, how enthused to be a Laker are you now, Pau Gasol? After two straight years of wearing goat horns and being discussed in trades, Gasol is probably the third wheel. He's the Pras to Kobe and Dwight's Wyclef Jean and Lauryn Hill. How do you think that will affect the soft Spaniard's psyche?
With all these egos and personalities, the team needs someone who can manage them all. Unfortunately, that guy is retired and making Audi commercials. How much faith do you have in Mike Brown being able control his new All-Star cast? For all of his talents, Dwight Howard is also the same guy who demanded Stan Van Gundy be fired. Howard's a defensive stopper and a coach killer.
If Brown thought trying to handle the headcase formerly known as Ron Artest was tough, imagine the trouble of coddling a notorious flip-flopper like Howard. Howard has all of the decisiveness of a 13-year-old girl.
That brings me to my final point. It makes financial sense for Howard to not extend mid-season and test free agency at the end of the year. He can make more money that way. It took Howard months to welcome the idea of playing in Los Angeles. He wanted to be in Brooklyn. He was willing to settle for Dallas. He agreed to come to LA after those two wells dried up. Who is to say he won't flee the coup next summer?
The last year and a half has been spent watching Howard unable to make up his mind. Is he happy to be a Los Angeles Laker or just really happy to not be on the Orlando Magic? He'll sit in that press conference and say all the obligatory nice things about the team and the city, but I have to question the sincerity. Howard once put his arm around Stan Van Gundy a week after asking management to can him.
Lakers fans should be much more excited about this deal than Magic fans. After months of holding out for the best possible deal, Orlando settled on an appetizer sampler headlined by rookie Moe Harkless. Yes, including Jason Richardson in the deal frees up cap space. Who are you using that cap space on though?
Three late first-round picks and a couple of role players couldn't have possibly been the best offer on the table. What did Orlando get back that they can build around? New Orleans may not have received equal value for Chris Paul, but they at least got Eric Gordon. This deal pales in comparison to what Houston could have offered or even the Nets' deal centered around Brook Lopez.
Regardless, the Dwightmare is over. The Lakers have made the two biggest splashes of this offseason and are going to be major contenders for the title this year. With that said, this can still end bad for the Lakers. The key to this move working out is Howard staying happy, healthy and longer than one year.
It could happen, but Lakers fans should prepare for the possibility that it won't.
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