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Dwight Howard and Lakers' Ownership Will Reap the Disloyalty That They've Sewn

EL SEGUNDO, CA - AUGUST 10:  Dwight Howard speaks after being introduced to the media as the newest member of the Los Angeles Lakers during a news conference at the Toyota Sports Center on August 10, 2012 in El Segundo, California. The Lakers aquired Howard from Orlando Magic in a four-team trade. In addition Lakers wil receive Chris Duhon and Earl Clark from the Magic.  (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
Zach BuckleyNational NBA Featured ColumnistNovember 13, 2012

If there's one thing I can say about the basketball dramas that unfolded in Orlando and Los Angeles over the past calendar year it's this: I hope there weren't any kids watching.

Look, as sports fans, we hear this all the time: Professional sports are a business.

It's the reason that fan-favorite players are shown the door. Or that a Coach of the Year award comes with as much job security as a non-guaranteed contract.

But Dwight Howard and his new employers, the Los Angeles Lakers, brought this unfortunate aspect of professional sports to a new light (or, perhaps, a new darkness).

The lowlight of the basketball world over the past 12 months had been Howard's handling of his impending free agency.

Much in the same manner that former Denver Nugget Carmelo Anthony bullied his way out of The Mile High City and in to the Big Apple, Howard's shifting stances on his future with Orlando hamstrung the organization and ultimately cost them their coach (Stan Van Gundy), general manager (Otis Smith) and franchise player (Howard).

Hey, at least Anthony left the Nuggets with a collection of talent in return.

In exchange for Howard, the Magic received a past-his-prime Al Harrington, average-to-below-average role players Arron Afflalo, Nikola Vucevic, Josh McRoberts and Christian Eyenga, rookie Moe Harkless, a collection of mid-to-lower level first- and second-round picks over the coming drafts and a $17.8 million trade exception that the club may never use.

Yuck. Analysts always say that teams cannot let their franchise players walk for nothing, but in this case, a bag of basketballs and some Gatorade may have been a better return.

As for Howard's new club, let's just say loyalty isn't exactly part of their business model.

The first inkling of this came in the ill-fated, David Stern-nixed trade that nearly brought Chris Paul to the City of Angels.

The Lakers can't be faulted for their desire to add a player of Paul's caliber, but their all-too-quick inclusion of Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol (integral pieces in L.A.'s past two championships) in that deal showed the franchise's lack of loyalty in a disastrous light.

After Stern nullified the trade, the relationship with Odom was irreparable and he was sent to Dallas shortly thereafter.

As for Gasol, the 2011-12 season ended with a career-low scoring average of 17.4 points and a seemingly endless array of trade rumors swirling about at the trade deadline.

Fast-forward to the 2012-13 season and it's business as usual for the Lakers. A 1-4 start cost head coach Mike Brown his job after little more than a strike-shortened season with the club.

Despite a less-than-100-percent Howard and an injured Steve Nash, the Lakers' brass decided that Brown deserved an even shorter leash than an NFL head coach.

Even the shrewdest of businessmen can tell you that this is no way to operate. The revolving faces on the floor (and on the sidelines) have made the Lakers less of a team and more of a paycheck supplier.

Team chemistry does not develop overnight. And it certainly doesn't come by continually blowing up and rebuilding a roster or a coaching staff.

Playing or coaching in a major media market is always going to come with an unusual amount of exterior pressures. Some interior support, however, could go a long way toward turning this franchise back into a team.

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