The Los Angeles Lakers are a storied franchise with a legacy of success, which is what makes it all the stranger that they're planning to pull out all of the stops in an effort to retain Dwight Howard. Apparently, it's desperation time in L.A.
The Lakers kicked off their pitch to Howard, who'll officially become a free agent on July 1, with a one-word plea on the side of the Staples Center.
Giant banners begging Howard to stay are sort of unbecoming for a franchise with the kind of history the Lakers have. This sort of thing feels more appropriate in a small college town when a beloved football coach is thinking of taking the big offer from an instate powerhouse.
In Los Angeles, it just seems hokey.
But get ready for the Lakers to lower themselves even further, because the "Stay" campaign has only just begun.
What could the use of Hollywood connections possibly entail?
Maybe Jack Nicholson will put together a re-cut of his famous scene in The Shining in which he reduces a door to splinters and crazily yells "Here's Dwight!" through the opening.
And if that doesn't work, perhaps we can expect George Clooney and Brad Pitt to put together a PSA in which they laud the benefits of living in Southern California. It could end with $118 million raining down from the ceiling as a reminder of the money Howard would be giving up if he left Tinseltown.
Or maybe the Lakers could commission Lisa Loeb to rewrite some of the lyrics to this:
I don't know about you, but I'm moved.
In the event Howard's not a fan of sappy '90s pop tunes (though, I don't see how that's possible), the Lakers will probably resort to more building-related entreaties. You know, like:
Free agency is war, though, so expect the Houston Rockets to retaliate with their own campaigns for Howard.
Hey, they can only offer $88 million over four years; they've got to do something.
Of course, maybe the Rockets—and, to a similar extent, the Dallas Mavericks—don't really have to make much of a pitch for D12. After all, both already have extremely clean balance sheets, stars in place and the ability to add more talent with which to surround Howard.
Those sorts of factors are probably much more persuasive to Howard than any collection of pleading banners.
Look, the Lakers seem dedicated to keeping Howard around, but this sort of desperation is pretty low for a franchise that used to be the top destination for just about every free agent in the league. In many ways, the Lakers' need to go overboard in their efforts to retain Howard is indicative of the sad state of the organization.
The players on the roster are aging and injured, the team is miles into the luxury tax and the roster is led by a coach that nobody seems to like. Because of all of those factors, the Lakers know they're not as attractive as they used to be.
And that's why they're coming on so strong. It's a shame, really. The Lakers used to be proud. Some factions still are.
It seems highly unlikely that a campaign involving billboards and whatever "Hollywood connections" the team has planned will do much to sway Howard's decision.
The only positive way to spin what the Lakers are doing is to acknowledge that they've got a good understanding of Howard's penchant for attention. And nothing says "attention" like a giant, expensive ad campaign designed to woo.
If L.A. provides Howard with the spotlight he desires, and the Lakers wave around the extra $30 million they can pay him, maybe the big man will re-sign with the team.
But if that doesn't happen, the Lakers are going to end up looking desperate and weak for nothing.
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