There were plenty of reasons to lead the Los Angeles Lakers to believe that a marriage of their franchise and perennial All-Star Dwight Howard wouldn't end amicably.
From his blatant hatred of Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy to his dissatisfied conversation (via Pro Basketball Talk) with Kobe Bryant in Feb. 2012 about a potential trade to LA, the warning signs were there that the Lakers should avoid D12 at all costs.
They didn't listen.
Now, it's time to correct a potentially disastrous trade by making another one—to the Brooklyn Nets.
As reported by Real GM, the Nets are ready to pursue Howard yet again, pulling in the Minnesota Timberwolves as a potential third-party suitor for Brook Lopez. Here's the report from Twitter:
Nets Were Planning To Talk Three-Team Dwight Howard Trade Sending Kevin Love To Lakers, Brook Lopez To Wolves -- bit.ly/143ooSy— RealGM (@RealGM) January 22, 2013
The rumor has been debunked by the Nets (courtesy of Pro Basketball Talk), but that doesn't stop the mind from wondering if this is really the best thing for the Lakers, considering Howard's recent attitude towards the team's struggles and their current record.
Not only does Los Angeles sit at 17-24, a full four games behind the No. 8 seed in the West, it also is dealing with two disgruntled employees who play next to each other in the frontcourt. Given Howard's recent comments about why the Lakers are struggling, it's no wonder the Nets are ready to pounce.
Are the Lakers ready to listen?
Here's what Howard had to say following his team's 95-83 loss to the Chicago Bulls on Monday (via Kevin Ding of the Orange County Register):
“Look at the stat sheet,” Howard said. Asked how he can get more shots, Howard said: “It’s simple. Play inside-out.”
Asked if it is out of his power, he said quietly: “Just continue to play. Not get frustrated. As hard as it is, can’t get frustrated.”
Ding publicly called out Howard on Tuesday, going so far as to blame the big man for the team's most recent set of struggles. He makes an excellent point, digging deeper into the between-the-lines message from Howard's post-game interview:
But Howard hasn't been that good – and hasn't updated his self-image to reflect the current state of his game or figure out how to help the team win. He had a reputation in Orlando for always blaming others, and his comments after this game about his shot total showed he's still operating from the same manual – even as he also spouted clichés about how "we've just got to find a way to stick together."
For now, the trade window appears closed on Howard. The Nets have denied this most recent reported interest and have the stats (a strong start under interim head coach P.J. Carlesimo) to back up their refuted claims.
Still, Howard's presence on a team is enticing. It enticed the Lakers, and it has to appeal to the Nets, since they are trying to grab the media market in New York—a tough thing to do with the Knicks hogging the coverage.
The Lakers don't have a quick fix for their answers. Feeding the ball to Howard more times per game (his clear desire) won't change the fact that the team has been slow in defensive recovery and awful in defensive transition.
LA can ride out this season with Howard and then let him walk via free agency in the summer, but the Lakers have never been known to wait something out if something better is on the horizon. Not only would Kevin Love (the reported player coming back to LA in this deal) make sense for the Mike D'Antoni offense, he's a better fit in the locker room, too.
The Dwight Howard experiment in LA is coming to a close. Blame Bryant, blame D'Antoni—blame Howard if you so desire. Whatever the culprit may be, it's time to stop pretending there is any semblance of unity or putting aside of egos on this Lakers team.
One way to fix that is to get rid of the biggest ego—the one that hasn't accounted for five NBA championships.
If the Nets—or any other team with a good offer—call again, expect the Lakers to listen.
Ethan Grant is a featured columnist for B/R's Breaking News Team. Check him out on Twitter.