The Los Angeles Lakers continue to have to deal with negative headlines from their embattled center. A day after comments (per this report from Kevin Ding of the Orange County Register) that suggested he was frustrated and upset about his current role in this struggling offense, Howard has apologized for those actions.
Don't worry, Howard haters, his half-hearted excuse for an apology won't keep him off the trading block.
Here's what Howard had to say on Wednesday, per this report from ESPN's Dave McMenamin:
That's over with...I can't think about it. That was immature. I shouldn't have done it, but today is a new day and today is a new game.
I have to do more for this team. There are a lot of responsibilities on my shoulders. I have to step up and take it. It has to be me. It has to start with me. I'm a guy that has to dominate for us to win. We're not going to win unless I dominate.
That's high self-praise considering Howard has been a crutch for this team during its 17-24 start to the season. Howard hasn't been his usual dominant self. Don't let his 17-plus points and 12-plus rebound stats fool you—this is not the same player that won multiple Defensive Player of the Year Awards in Orlando.
That—combined with his poor and often childish attitude toward the team both when Mike Brown was the head coach and now that Mike D'Antoni has taken over—will ultimately lead to his exit from a franchise that was ecstatic to get him this summer in a four-team trade that included Andrew Bynum.
Consider the trading block open and ready for business in LA.
One theory concerning Howard's lack of production is D'Antoni's offense. The only solution to that crutch would be rid the Lakers of another coach midseason, something general manager Mitch Kupchak dispelled on Wednesday (per this McMenamin report).
Kupchak can't afford to admit he made a mistake hiring D'Antoni in the first place—at least not in the middle of this season. Howard is going to have to make his living in pick-and-roll situations and offensive rebound opportunities, and those are two things that he hasn't done particularly well this season.
Another factor speeding up Howard's ultimate exit from LA is his contract situation. A free agent at the end of this season, he can get more money re-upping with the Lakers. However, without a salary dump of Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant's huge contract still on the books, Los Angeles won't want to throw money at a guy that is a clubhouse cancer.
As Alex Kennedy of HoopsWorld notes on Twitter, this isn't the first rodeo for Dwight Howard comments about his contract situation:
Dwight Howard wouldn't talk free agency. "That is my choice at the end of the season, but right now my focus is on tonight." Sound familiar?— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) January 23, 2013
The facts are on the table for Kupchak, the Buss family and the rest of the organization. Once thought of as a dream marriage of personalities and talents, Howard and the Lakers simply do not coexist in the same universe.
His most recent attempt to get back in the good graces of LA is for naught.
The Lakers will and should continue to pursue trade alternatives for their disgruntled center. Despite his problems in LA, there are plenty of teams that will come knocking for his services and would love to have him a different system.
Howard is a ticking clock. Whether that clock is set for the NBA trade deadline or this summer is irrelevant—this is the beginning of the end of the all-too-short D12 era with the Los Angeles Lakers.
At least Shaquille O'Neal is smiling smugly somewhere—probably as we speak.
Ethan Grant is a featured columnist for B/R's Breaking News Team.