With all the uncertainty that has clouded the Los Angeles Lakers' season this year regarding Dwight Howard's contractual status and their failure to live up to expectations, it is clear that the Lakers have to make some monumental changes if they wish to keep Howard in L.A.
Although the supposed beef between Kobe Bryant and Howard has been downplayed by the media and the Lakers themselves, it is clear that Howard is having a hard time playing by the Black Mamba's high standards.
Bryant is the epitome of intensity, seriousness, focus and determination. On the other end of the spectrum, Howard is fun-loving, carefree and uncomfortable with pressure and the media spotlight.
With that being said, it was originally thought that Bryant's work ethic would rub off on Howard and mold him into a cerebral assassin the same way Bryant is in every aspect of his life.
However, after months of inconsistent play and unmet expectations, the friction between the two has boiled down to one thing.
Unless we're talking about Shaquille O'Neal, it is clear that there cannot be two alpha males in Los Angeles.
Howard won't be happy unless he is the focal point on offense. It has been reported by numerous sources that Howard isn't comfortable in Mike D'Antoni's system.
Furthermore, he is even more uncomfortable playing alongside Bryant, who needs the offense to run through him.
The only way the Lakers can win Howard over and convince him to resign with the Lakers is to ensure that he understands that he is going to become the foundation of the organization for the years to come.
Bryant is playing at unbelievably high level. However, it is clear that his best years are behind him and even the Black Mamba himself has stated that he doesn't have many seasons left in him.
Although the Lakers' organization and Howard both understand that Howard is essential to their future, it is easy to forget that while the Lakers are mired in mediocrity.
Furthermore, Howard doesn't only want to be the focal point of the offense, he wants to contend for a title on a yearly basis as well.
Therefore, aside from assurance that he is going to be the cornerstone going forward, the Lakers need to win and they need to win now.
Only a playoff appearance and a deep postseason run will encourage Howard and make an emphatic statement regarding the Lakers' ability to give Howard the opportunity to compete for championships.
With his contract out at the end of the season, there isn't time to show Howard the Lakers' commitment to rebuilding championship-caliber teams over a stretch of time.
Therefore, it is imperative that the Lakers continue to encourage him and satiate his need for touches as well as fight their way back into the playoff picture with him as the focal point in order to have any semblance of a chance in re-signing Superman.
Thus, the most effective way to do this is to find an offense that both Bryant and Howard can thrive in.
If Mike D'Antoni is insistent on running a pick-and-roll-oriented offense while playing run-and-gun basketball, it is of the utmost importance for Bryant and Howard to work together on the pick-and-roll.
Now that Steve Nash has become more of a supplementary shooter with excellent passing ability, the facilitator's role has become Bryant's.
Given D'Antoni's lack of a low-post oriented offensive scheme, the best way to have both Bryant and Howard actively manage the offense is to have them run the screen-and-roll with one another on a consistent basis.
Furthermore, they need to develop this rapport fast in order to utilize well down the stretch and fight back into the playoffs.
Under D'Antoni, it seems like the pick-and-roll is the only answer to the Lakers' qualms. If forced into such a corner, the Lakers' best bet is to maximize their two most talented players in that system.
Will Dwight Howard re-sign with the Lakers?
This is similar to how the Miami Heat began to dominate down the stretch of last year's playoffs when focusing on their main strengths; which was using LeBron James excessively in the post as well as running the screen-and-roll with Dwyane Wade and James.
Similarly, if D'Antoni won't budge in his system, the Lakers' best bet is to use Howard and Bryant excessively and in as many ways possible within D'Antoni's framework.
This will theoretically heighten their chances of competing their way back into the playoffs and keeping Howard happy as the offensive focal point.