Lakers News: Dwight Howard's Staying Put a Bad Sign for Mike D'Antoni

Josh BenjaminCorrespondent IFebruary 20, 2013

December 22, 2012; Oakland, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers head coach Mike D'Antoni (left) and center Dwight Howard (12) react after Howard fouled out during the overtime quarter against the Golden State Warriors at ORACLE Arena. The Lakers defeated the Warriors 118-115 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

It looks like All-Star center Dwight Howard is not going anywhere, and Los Angeles Lakers head coach Mike D'Antoni should start sweating...NOW.

According to Arash Markazi of ESPN Los Angeles, Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak spoke to Colin Cowherd of ESPN Radio and said that in spite of receiving multiple calls about Howard, a trade will not be made before tomorrow's deadline.

In his first season with the Lakers, Howard has posted 16.3 points, 11.8 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game. While solid at times, it is clear that he has struggled in D'Antoni's up-tempo offense. Instead of working the low post like he is used to, he has been forced to become a pick-and-roll center and has struggled to stay consistent.

In a report by ESPN's Ramona Shelburne and Marc Stein, the word around the Staples Center was that Howard was unhappy playing in D'Antoni's offense and would seek a trade. We now know that a deal won't happen, but the writing appears to be on the wall for the Lakers' head coach.

Call me crazy, but the Lakers deciding to keep Howard aboard could be a sign that the team will prepare to move on without D'Antoni once the regular season is over. The fact is that the star-studded team has underachieved all season, currently ranking 10th in the highly competitive Western Conference and three-and-a-half games out of the final playoff spot, currently occupied by the Houston Rockets.

Barring a major Houston collapse and an epic Los Angeles run, it looks like the Lakers will miss the playoffs despite having Howard, Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash on the same team.

More importantly, if the Lakers had zero doubt about D'Antoni's future with the organization, or just wanted to show their support for him, they would have traded Howard either by now or at least be in serious negotiations with another team about a potential trade. Instead, they have opted to hang onto him in spite of his not being a fan of the run-and-gun offense.

Come the offseason, the Lakers are going to be in an interesting position once Howard hits free agency in July. They can offer him more money than any other team, but will he take that extra cash if he isn't a fan of the coach?

If you ask me, the decision to keep him this season alone says it all. Once the regular season is over and assuming the Lakers don't make the playoffs, Kupchak and team ownership will probably hand D'Antoni his walking papers.

This would be an odd move, especially since D'Antoni signed a three-year deal after being hired to replace the fired Mike Brown in November, but it would not be the first time a team dismissed its head coach after the first season of a long-term contract. The New York Knicks hired Larry Brown in 2005 and signed him to a five-year deal, only to cut him loose after one season following his inability to reach star point guard Stephon Marbury as well as disagreements with then-GM Isiah Thomas.

The Lakers letting D'Antoni go would be no different. His system is not getting the best out of the current group of players, and there are plenty of coaches out there who could probably do a better job, like Lakers legend Phil Jackson or former Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy.

Granted, this is all speculation, but why else would the Lakers keep Dwight Howard on the roster this season when other teams are willing to give up a boatload of talent to acquire him? Kupchak's decision reeks of one that signals the end of D'Antoni's tenure in Los Angeles, but fans won't have a definitive answer on that front until the end of the Lakers' season.