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Does Dwight Howard Belong in LA as Lakers' Face of the Future?

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Does Dwight Howard Belong in LA as Lakers' Face of the Future?
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We'll only know if Dwight Howard belongs with the Los Angeles Lakers if he agrees to return to Hollywood.

Rumors of his supposed interest in other teams mean nothing. Until the big man actually makes his decision, we won't know where he's fit to play. Currently, all we have to go on is hearsay, and that's not enough.

ESPN.com's Chris Broussard's latest report is no exception. He posits that Howard has no plans of re-signing with the Lakers because of his apparent distaste for Mike D'Antoni and Kobe Bryant:

There is very little chance of Dwight Howard re-signing with the Los Angeles Lakers this summer, according to sources close to the situation.

Howard is willing to forgo the extra $30 million the Lakers can pay him to play for a coach and in a system he feels will better utilize his skill set, one source said.

...

Howard's major problem with the Lakers is the system Coach Mike D'Antoni employs. Beyond that, he did not enjoy playing with Kobe Bryant, though he could manage to do so in a different system, a source said. Howard also does not want to be second fiddle to Bryant for several more seasons.

Per Broussard, the Houston Rockets and Dallas Mavericks are also now the favorites to land Howard's services this summer, ahead of the Lakers.

When asking yourself if any of this is possible, believe that it is. There's only one season tying Superman to the Lakers. Devout loyalty isn't cultivated in just one year. That is to say, not with the campaign the Lakers had.

Howard played through back and shoulder injuries, and the Lakers clinched a playoff berth by the skin of their teeth. They were swept in the first round by the San Antonio Spurs, and Dwight was ejected in their final game.

To make matters worse, Howard reportedly complained about D'Antoni's coaching style during his exit interview. His feud with Kobe is either nonexistent or very much alive depending upon the day.

Really, it's exhausting. All of this. Every last tidbit of every last report of every last day is excruciating. The speculation, the conjecture and the fallacies that are conveyed as facts are manipulating our perception of the situation, leading us to believe we know everything when we, in fact, know nothing.

Houston may be a favorite, and Dallas too. Said locales may even be higher on Howard's list of preferred destinations than Los Angeles; we simply don't know for sure. All we are certain of is that the Lakers are prepared to give Howard everything he's ever wanted, and should he walk away from that, it says a lot about him. And nothing good, I might add.

We can call last season what it was—a nightmare. Injuries, coaching changes, injuries, rumors of implosion and injuries dominated the front pages. I think it even rained once. Harbingers of doom don't come in the form of one unfortunate season, though. Not in Los Angeles.

The Lakers persevere. They rebound. One botched crusade doesn't change all they've done and all they're still capable of doing. All they're still prepared to offer Dwight. 

Don't think for a minute Mitch Kupchak and crew aren't picking up on the underlying details. Despite that perpetual smirk of his, the Lakers know Howard isn't beyond thrilled about how his time in Tinseltown has gone, and they're prepared to do something about it.

Aversions to D'Antoni's system won't be an issue. The Lakers have made it clear they plan to feature Howard more on the offensive end next season. 

Any trepidation behind D'Antoni's offensive blueprint really shouldn't even be a topic at this point. He and the rest of the team began to understand the importance of Howard's skill set during the latter quarter of the season. Interior sets were ran with him specifically in mind.

As for the whole Kobe debacle, Howard's problem (if he has one) isn't the Black Mamba. It's the thought of playing in someone else's shadow or alongside another superstar.

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Spor

Broussard said that Howard is enraptured by the prospect of signing in Dallas because he likes the idea of being the "top superstar" of a franchise, which isn't the whole truth. Going to Dallas means he wants to be the only superstar.

Nothing against Dirk Nowitzki, but he's not Kobe. He's still a star in his own right, yet, he doesn't generate as much coverage or hoopla or even respect as the Mamba. Howard could come in and assume control of the organization without so much as Dirk or the Mavericks batting an eye.

It doesn't work like that in Los Angeles. The Lakers believe in something greater than Howard and even Kobe himself. Though they've been Kobe's team for the better part of two decades, their past success stems far beyond the accolades of one player. 

Not that the Lakers aren't prepared to give Howard the world. They are, and they've already started to.

Los Angeles stuck a massive banner outside the Staples Center urging Dwight to stay.

Photo via Lakers instagram.

And why? Because he's into that sort of thing. Billboards of himself weren't plastered across Florida when he was with the Orlando Magic, but they will be if he remains with the Lakers.

Which team will Dwight Howard sign with this summer?

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In purple and gold, he'll be treated like royalty. He'll be on a team with a propensity for winning championships and with a plan in place to keep that tradition rolling. You don't leave that for a team like the Mavericks.

I'll be one of the first to admit that the Rockets are appealing. James Harden is a stud, and Chandler Parsons is a solid complementary piece. But the Mavericks? They're not a superteam with Dirk and Howard, and there's no assurances they'll become one. Dallas was supposed to land Deron Williams in free agency last summer and didn't. Similar failure could soon be experienced.

If Howard's willing to flee from all the exposure he's ever wanted and a team with a future like the Lakers for the denser ambiguity that awaits him in Dallas, then good riddance.

The Lakers need a leader who actually wants to lead them. And Dwight can only be that leader, he only belongs with the Lakers if he's prepared to live up to everything he's supposedly aspired to be.

 

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