Is Dwight Howard Really the Guy Laker Fans Want to Build a Franchise Around?

Thomas Duffy@@TJDhoopsFeatured ColumnistJune 17, 2013

March 10, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard (12) during a stoppage in play against the Chicago Bulls during the second half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

For most Los Angeles Lakers fans, Dwight Howard is not the guy who they want to build the team around. However, the Lakers front office has a different view—the right one.

Howard is a free agent this summer and has given the team no indication that he will re-sign or commit to a long-term deal after just one disappointing season in Los Angeles when he averaged about 17 points and 12 rebounds per game. The Lakers will do all that they can to bring Howard back to Los Angeles.

D12 has been pinned by fans of the team as childish, immature, lazy and soft. Are these unflattering terms accurate? Well, yes and no.

Howard has definitely had moments where the terms "childish" and "immature" were more than appropriate. The time when he got head coach Stan Van Gundy fired from the Orlando Magic and then forced his way into a trade probably takes the cake as the top highlight in that category.

There is a certain goofiness about Howard that is so likable, though. He would average more smiles per game than anyone else in the NBA if that were a statistic because the guy genuinely loves the game of basketball. Howard has taken some criticism for his happy-go-lucky style of play, but that hasn’t stopped him from flashing that grin as he runs up and down the court.

Shaquille O'Neal, one of Howard's biggest critics, had this to say about him (via ESPN LA):

"He's too nice," O'Neal said Tuesday on "The Max and Marcellus Show" on ESPNLA 710. "I'm a connoisseur of giggling and playing and all that and making you laugh and playing with the fans, but when I cross that line, I'm ready to tear your face off. I don't care who it is. You could put one of my aunts or uncles out there, and I'm going to give him these elbows in their chest and I'm going to throw it down in their face. That's what you have to do. ... He's just too nice. If I was him, I would get into the same mood I was in."

Whether Howard is actually lazy and soft or not remains to be seen. However, he hasn’t really displayed the type of heart that is needed in a franchise player. For example, he scored seven points against the San Antonio Spurs in Game 4 of the first round of the postseason and got himself ejected early in the contest. Howard seemed to quit on his squad, whose loss completed San Antonio's sweep of the series.

Seven points from a franchise player—really?

The majority of Lakers fans just don’t like D12. However, if they truly bleed purple and gold they will have to understand that retaining Howard is the only thing that will salvage 2014 for the team.

The era of Kobe Bryant singlehandedly winning championships is over. Bryant is recovering from surgery that repaired a torn Achilles and is currently 34 years old. The Black Mamba has vowed to come back from this devastating injury, and he probably will just because he is who he is, but can fans really expect to win a title like that?

Despite what he says, it’s unlikely that Bryant will be healthy and available for the start of next season. The best players on the team outside of the Mamba and D12 will be Steve Nash and Pau Gasol. That’s not exactly a championship-winning formula.

Howard is the best center in the league—does it really seem logical to not want him on your team? Despite his flaws, he is the only hope for the Lakers in the near future, and someone that fans of LA need to accept.

Sure, Howard isn’t perfect. Neither is any player in the NBA, on or off the court. LeBron James’ struggles in clutch situations doesn’t change the fact that he’s the best player on the planet, just as the blemishes in D12’s game and personality don’t change the fact that he’s the most dominant big man in the league.

Lakers fans might not want to hear this, but the guy that they want expelled from Los Angeles so badly is the only one who can save the franchise for the foreseeable future.