They fired head coach Mike Brown after a 1-4 start, replaced him with Mike D'Antoni (instead of Phil Jackson) to conclude an abbreviated interview process, and have spent the bulk of an abysmal campaign searching for piecemeal solutions by cycling through lineup after lineup, rotation after rotation.
Any attempt to offload Dwight Howard prior to the February 21 trade deadline would fit all too well into that category, if not dwarf all of the Lakers' prior silliness by comparison. The front office worked diligently and played its hand beautifully this past summer in acquiring a then-26-year-old Howard in a four-team trade that cost L.A. Andrew Bynum, a draft pick and various roster flotsam.
Dwight wants to play for a contender, and the Lakers, at 17-25, clearly aren't in that category. He wants to be the focal point of an offense, which he won't be so long as he's playing next to the likes of Kobe and Steve Nash. He wants to win on his own terms, which he can't do so long as the Black Mamba is around.
The Lakers, for their part, want to turn this mess around so as not to squander Kobe's twilight. Moving Pau Gasol has become implausible for a number of reasons, including his massive salary and all-too-evident decline in productivity, and LA would be loath to risk losing two top-notch bigs by the start of the 2013-14 campaign.
With Howard, the Lakers might actually expect a decent return that wouldn't hamstring their plans for financial flexibility in 2014, despite the All-Star center's own issues stemming from a surgically repaired back.
There's been no clear indication yet as to whether or not Dwight's frustrations will drive him away from the glitz and glamour (and money) that comes with playing in the Purple and Gold once he hits free agency in July. The Lakers, it seems, may not want to wait and see if they do.
In that event, here are a handful of scenarios—based, in part, on rumors regarding Dwight's preferred destinations and deals already discussed—that might actually make some sense for the teams involved.
Lakers get: Kevin Love and Luke Ridnour
Timberwolves get: Brook Lopez, Mirza Teletovic and Darius Morris
Nets get: Dwight Howard
Why It Works
Howard and Kevin Love are stuck in similar situations. Both have been limited by injuries this season, and while only one (Love) has been outspoken about switching teams, both are still considerable flight risks.
By dumping Love and bringing back Brook Lopez, the T-Wolves take care of two birds with one stone. That is, they relieve themselves of any need to worry about K-Love agitating for a trade and eliminate any need to overpay Nikola Pekovic once he hits restricted free agency this summer.
In return, they get a player, in Lopez, who probably should've been an All-Star this year for what he's done in the wake of a last season's crippling foot problems. Lopez sports the sort of offensive skill that would make him a solid fit in Rick Adelman's motion-based offense. Mirza Teletovic would give the T-Wolves another stretch-4 to play behind Derrick Williams, while Darius Morris gives the team another backup point guard behind Ricky Rubio and J.J. Barea.
Meanwhile, the love affair between Brooklyn and Dwight is hardly a secret. The Nets were his team of choice throughout the "Dwightmare," and they tried their darndest to acquire Howard from the Orlando Magic on multiple occasions, even after picking up Joe Johnson from the Atlanta Hawks.
Howard would bring Brooklyn the defensive presence it so sorely needs along the backline; the Nets are middle of the pack in defensive efficiency and rank 22nd in opponent field-goal percentage in the restricted area. In Dwight, Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Gerald Wallace, the Nets would have a core group with the talent to challenge the Miami Heat for Eastern Conference supremacy on both ends of the floor.
As for the Lakers, they'd get a skilled power forward whose perimeter shooting prowess would fit perfectly in Mike D'Antoni's much-maligned system. Luke Ridnour would give LA another steady hand at the point who can shoot, run the pick-and-roll and spell Steve Nash.
Why It Doesn't Work
Most of the problems here lie with Minnesota. The T-Wolves would be hesitant, at the very least, to part ways with Love before making an earnest run at the playoffs with him in the lineup. The prospect of replacing Pekovic with Lopez isn't bad, but the scary Serbian has been a force in the middle for Minny and could return at a reasonable number.
Even though swapping out the 27-year-old Pek for the 24-year-old Lopez has to be appealing in some sense.
A Proper Homecoming with the Atlanta Hawks
Lakers get: Al Horford and Kyle Korver
Hawks get: Dwight Howard
Why It Works
Bill Simmons and Zach Lowe discussed this idea in a recent piece for Grantland, and it's certainly a reasonable suggestion.
Once upon a time, Dwight Howard was a high school legend at Southwest Atlanta Christian and grew up playing ball with Josh Smith and Anthony Morrow. Both are among Howard's closest friends and currently play for the Hawks. A return to his old stomping grounds might give Howard a chance to get his act together while surrounded by a network of friends and family.
The Hawks, for their part, would jump right back into the hunt in the East with Howard on board. Atlanta has gone 4-8 since its sizzling 20-10 start, due in large part to a significant drop-off on the defensive end. If/when Howard's back heals up, he should do plenty to rectify that situation.
Furthermore, Atlanta's collection of shooters should make Howard feel right at home in the middle—as he was in Orlando—while a reunion with Smith provides comfort off the court.
In Al Horford, the Lakers would acquire a former All-Star who's younger than Howard, can man either frontcourt position and provide a solid presence on the defensive end. Kyle Korver would give D'Antoni another perimeter shooter with whom to spread the floor as well as someone to push Metta World Peace to power forward more frequently.
Why It Doesn't Work
There's been no indication thus far that Dwight has any interest in playing for his hometown team, much less signing a long-term deal with them over the summer. If the Hawks really want him, they can always court him in free agency with the gobs of cap space they'll have at their disposal, without having to give up an attractive chip like Horford.
On the Lakers' end, Horford wouldn't exactly alleviate the fit problems in the frontcourt. He and Pau Gasol play essentially the same position, and Gasol would once again be log-jammed by the small-minded D'Antoni.
The Dallas Mavericks Play "Let's Make a Deal"
Lakers get: Shawn Marion, Chris Kaman and Darren Collison
Mavericks get: Dwight Howard, Earl Clark and Darius Morris
Why It Works
Dallas has long been mentioned as one of Dwight's most coveted destinations. The Mavs made mild fools of themselves when they reloaded with spare parts this past summer after striking out on Howard and Deron Williams, and they would likely jump at the chance of a do-over.
Like the Lakers, the Mavs are looking to maximize the remaining years of a franchise legend (Dirk Nowitzki) and would be able to do just that with Howard. He could star next to Dirk, just as Tyson Chandler once did, while team owner Mark Cuban provides the proper pampering until his time to shine comes along.
Earl Clark and Darius Morris would be throw-ins, more or less, though ones that could be groomed to play productive roles under Rick Carlisle.
On the Lakers' end, they'd be getting a veteran, in Shawn Marion, who starred as a stretch-4 in D'Antoni's spread pick-and-roll with the Phoenix Suns. Even at the age of 34, Marion remains a productive scorer and a better perimeter defender than just about anyone LA currently has.
Chris Kaman could spell Pau Gasol off the bench, and Darren Collison, once a star at UCLA, would be able to ply his trade behind Steve Nash amidst friends and family.
And, the Lakers would still have their precious cap room with which to work come 2014.
Why It Doesn't Work
Like the Hawks, the Mavs don't have all that much incentive to trade for Dwight since they too have the financial flexibility to sign him outright in free agency.
Still, Dallas would be far quicker to make this deal than LA would. Such a deal would only make the Lakers older, and D'Antoni's system doesn't take well to back-to-the-basket centers, as this season has made perfectly clear.
In short, the Lakers would be selling Dwight for mere pennies on the dollar in this case, without bringing back the sort of pieces needed to make a playoff push.
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