While going through adversity ultimately uplifted one superteam two seasons ago, it's about to divide the Los Angeles Lakers more than injury, chemistry issues, coaching styles or the bloodthirsty media hounds that have circled around the team all year long ever did.
Dwight Howard came to Los Angeles via trade last summer not by force of will, but because it offered a better opportunity for him than the status quo.
As such, you may expect him to re-sign with the Lakers because, in spite of their spiraling championship aspirations, no other city or franchise would allow him to maximize his talents or celebrity profile as well.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news for a fanbase that has been ravaged by it for months now, but everything that has transpired over this season is just a byproduct of why Dwight Howard will be as good as gone this summer.
It's because he's not "the man," period.
Going to Brooklyn would've offered the love-thirsty big man the two things he sought most—a bigger market and being the top gun.
And between Kobe Bryant being the deity he is in LA and no one having a clue when he will retire, the only two words synonymous with Howard's name in Lakerland for the foreseeable future are "second" and "fiddle."
Before you dismiss this as a plausible explanation, think about how this season has gone for Howard on a personal level.
Even when his name was getting dragged through the mud last year for changing his mind about where he wanted to play, he was never ridiculed by teammates or needed his father to step in on his behalf.
This year, contrarily, and for the first time in his career, Dwight Howard is beginning to experience what life is like as the scapegoat.
Do you know why?
It's because there is a glorious element that comes with being "the man" on a franchise, and it's called the benefit of the doubt.
Just take a look at Kobe Bryant.
For as much as Lakers fans want to glorify his recent embrace as a facilitator for the team, they could have just as readily slammed him for taking half of the season to augment his style of play for the greater good.
Fans could be upset with him for criticizing someone who is expected to be the cornerstone of the franchise through the media instead of keeping his remarks in-house.
Instead, they credit him for having the gumption as a leader to hold his teammates accountable regardless of what the implications may be because nothing takes precedence over winning.
Meanwhile, no such sentiment has been used in Howard's defense for the underwhelming season he's having.
No one is saying, "Well, it's because he's unhealthy that he's playing subpar by his own standard".
Kobe Bryant—the mouthpiece of the organization now more so than he's ever been before—has taken Howard to task on almost a daily basis.
And while Kobe continues to implore that his comments simply be taken at face value, it's hard to ignore the unflattering manner that it paints Dwight Howard in.
All of this is to say one thing: When Howard eventually does leave, it won't be because he was painted as the scapegoat for the Lakers' travails, or because Kobe criticized him publicly, or because Mike D'Antoni hasn't made him a focal point of the offense.
It will be because none of those things would have ever happened if he was the main man on the team.
And even if they did, things wouldn't have gotten so dire that his dad needed to intercede on his behalf.
Los Angeles would've given him the benefit of the doubt.
Just like Minnesota looked the other way when Kevin Love fractured his hand doing knuckle push-ups, and like 76ers fans have stayed behind Andrew Bynum, despite something as foolish as bowling re-aggravating his knee problems.
Starting to get the picture?