Then, we spent the rest of the summer insisting that the best center in the NBA would never tie himself down to a long-term contract with one team before exploring free agency.
It appears that we were wrong—on both counts.
Not only did the Magic find a way to move Howard to the Los Angeles Lakers and thus help the league create its latest three-headed beast, it now appears that Howard is going to let the Lakers lock him up for the foreseeable future.
On Wednesday, SI.com's Sam Amick wrote:
Like the rest of the basketball universe, sources close to him say they'd be shocked if Howard — who can get a fifth year and an annual 7.5 percent raise with the Lakers as opposed to a four-year deal with 4.5 percent raises with any other team next summer — doesn't sign a long-term deal with the Lakers in July. The drama, in other words, is over for now. And the dominance, most likely, is about to begin.
So there you have it. If all goes according to plan, we won't have to spend the next nine months wondering where Howard is going to sign and how much they're going to pay him. We won't have to spend the next nine months listening to Howard subtly tease the world by musing aloud about what his future entails.
He seems to have found his home, and it's a pretty good one.
There has been lot of excitement surrounding Howard this week as he kicked off his Lakers career by practicing with the team on Wednesday.
Even though he hasn't yet been cleared for full-contact scrimmages, he practiced, and by nearly all indications, he looked really good doing it. The hope is that he'll be good to go by the time the preseason winds down, according to Amick.
And even if Howard and the Lakers aren't the toughest team in the NBA right off the bat, they're going to be one of them before long.
Chemistry is a big deal in this league, as we've seen from far too many failed experiments that have united a collection of superstars on one roster. Literally everything—every single mitigating factor—has to fall into place in order to produce a champion.
It takes time for superstars to gel, to develop a feel for each other, to figure out how to use one another in order to win instead of trying to do everything themselves. And though it may take the Lakers time to get to that point, it will happen eventually—and when it does, this team is going to give the NBA its next big thing.
Howard signing on for the long term is the key. This team can't do it without him, even with Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and Pau Gasol. Having the best center in the league is what will tie everything together for L.A.
It's not a coincidence that the Lakers couldn't succeed in the playoffs when Andrew Bynum wasn't healthy. Now, L.A. has the top-shelf version of Andrew Bynum, plus a veteran scoring point guard with more drive to win a championship than anyone.
It may take some time for the three of them—Howard, Nash and Bryant—to learn the ropes with each other. But if Howard sticks around, they'll have time. And that's bad news for the rest of the NBA.