Dwight Howard is going to get paid this summer, no matter how bad things get for him this season.
To say Howard has struggled this season for the Los Angeles Lakers would be an understatement of massive proportions, but that won't stop him from raking in the cash when he becomes a free agent.
Star centers don't grow on trees, and despite the fact that Howard's past couple of campaigns have been defined by tantrums and injuries, there's no doubt that he is still the premier center the NBA has to offer.
The Lakers are a hot mess this year, but Howard isn't responsible for this fact.
Hiring Mike D'Antoni to coach this team was the worst move Mitch Kupchak and Jerry Buss could have possibly made. D'Antoni's system doesn't fit the talent currently on the Lakers' roster, and the team is suffering as a result.
Howard hasn't been healthy all year long. For much of the early part of the year, he was still recovering from the back surgery that kept him out of the latter part of last season, and his torn labrum is clearly limiting his ability to dominate the paint.
The numbers show Howard to be a shell of himself.
He's averaging 16.2 points, 11.7 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game—stats that most players would be happy to own, but for Howard fall well short of his high standards.
You have to look back to his second year to find stats that are comparable to the ones he has put together for the Lakers this season. He has the ability to dominate on both sides of the court when healthy, scoring 20-plus points, hauling in 14-plus rebounds and two-plus blocks per game the past two seasons.
Once this disastrous season is over, Howard will have time to heal up and get ready to dominate once again next season with a completely clean slate on a team of his choosing.
And he'll have suitors to compete with the Lakers. There's no doubt about that.
But don't rule out the Houston Rockets from making a strong push for Howard, even though he wasn't interested in joining them in last year's trade sweepstakes. The addition of James Harden and Jeremy Lin has turned Houston into a legitimate contender, and if Howard were to join, the Rockets would be a formidable force in the West.
This season with the Lakers has been painful for Howard, for the team and its fans. But don't think for a second that it's going to affect the amount of cheddar the star is going to make after this season comes to a conclusion.
Howard will be just fine. When he's healthy, there isn't a player in the NBA that can match his productivity on both ends of the court, and he'll get paid as such.
The Lakers, on the other hand...well, that's a story for another day.
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