When the Lakers landed Dwight Howard this past offseason, it was widely assumed that the Lakers would offer the big man a max deal, he'd sign it and we would never again have to endure the Dwightmare we went through last year.
Well, get ready because the Dwightmare might be coming back in a hurry. ESPN's Marc Stein passed along that executives around the league haven't ruled out Howard playing in a different jersey next year.
Yet there's no shortage of executives in other cities who believe the Mavs are still at the front of the line for Dwight Howard -- one of their two original main targets, along with Chris Paul, when they dissolved the championship team before both players unexpectedly removed themselves from the 2012 free-agent class--if the struggling Howard decides at season's end that Lakerland isn't for him.
"I have it as Lakers, Dallas or Atlanta for Dwight," said one Western Conference GM.
The fact that Dallas is one of the teams is not surprising. There has been interest between the two parties for some time, and Mark Cuban isn't the kind of owner that is going to easily move on from missing out on a player he wants.
I would fully expect Dallas to offer Dwight a max contract as soon as they possibly can.
Since Howard is currently a Laker, Los Angeles will be able to offer him a bigger contract than the Mavericks, but unless Howard regains the form that made him "Superman," the Lakers shouldn't offer that contract.
Howard is still one of the most athletic centers in the league, but the unreal explosion that allowed Dwight to seemingly cover the entire court and dunk over any and everything in his way is no longer there.
In an interview with Ben Bolch of the Los Angeles Times, Howard's former coach noted Dwight's reduced explosion. Despite this, Howard is still putting up 17.4 points and 12 rebounds per game.
These are fantastic numbers, just not for Howard. These are also the kind of numbers that are going to get centers a max deal in the NBA, but that doesn't mean the deal is a good idea.
A 27-year-old, 6'11" center that is struggling to regain his form following a back surgery is not the safest gamble.
It is far more likely that Howard's back will only limit him more over time than that it would start to improve. That could leave whatever team that signs Dwight for a giant contract with a player that ends up having career-derailing back issues.
That is too risky a gamble, and one that the Lakers should avoid.