Perceiving the Lakers to be above such recruiting measures is ridiculous. NBA teams cater to the needs and wants of superstars, especially the ones being courted by other teams.
But have the Lakers perhaps taken their wooing of Superman too far? Has their pursuit exceeded the realm of necessity and approached pathetic?
Our inquiry is a fair one. Los Angeles really has gone above and beyond in its attempt to retain Howard—more than anyone ever would have expected.
First, there was a series of billboards, one of which was plastered across the Staples Center like the Buss family was preparing to re-name it Dwight Howard's Lair.
Then there was the sequence of satirical advertising that sent those unfamiliar with Photoshop into a frenzy.
For most teams, that would have been enough. Historically, for the Lakers, it was more than enough. Yet they weren't done.
As if the appeal of becoming a bigger TV star than Chris Bosh isn't enough, overtures are being made by Lakers legends on Los Angeles' behalf.
Phil Jackson's cryptic blues references can be vexing, but they're aimed at convincing Howard to re-up with the team he coached to five championships.
Objectivity has never been a strong suit of Magic Johnson's either. He's been openly pleading with the behemoth to make his return.
The notorious Jack Nicholson has rolled out the red carpet for Howard as well.
Not sure what it is exactly he tried to sell Howard on. Perhaps he promised never to leave a Lakers game early again. Either way, a bit of extra star power never hurt.
Back to our initial question: Is this excessive?
Pointing to the franchise's 16 championships should be enough. Kobe Bryant should be able to let Howard try on any one of his five rings and let that be it. Case closed. Howard would remain with the Lakers.
The thing about Howard is that it isn't enough. He claims to care about only championships, but feeling wanted and needed is also important to him, which is something the Lakers understand.
Mitch Kupchak wouldn't have met with Howard before any other team already knowing that the Lakers would have the last word if he didn't think the Lakers needed to. Trust him.
Kobe himself (along with Steve Nash) wouldn't be a part of Howard's recruiting committee if he didn't deem it necessary. Trust him too. Have faith in the future Hall of Famer who has helped carry the Lakers to five championships and is desperately seeking a sixth.
Not that we have to like Los Angeles' methods. Some within the organization already don't. We do, however, have to accept them.
Can't blame the detractors either. The Lakers seem desperate, and perhaps they are. More than anything, though, they understand what Dwight is looking for, what resonates with him.
They're not the only ones pulling out all the stops and then some to (re-)acquire Howard's services. The Houston Rockets talked television opportunities with him as well. Fort Worth-area restaurants are prepared to offer him a lifetime supply of chicken fingers if he signs with the Dallas Mavericks. And the Golden State Warriors have made it clear they're willing to sacrifice some of their young talent to make a Stephen Curry-Dwight Howard pairing a reality.
Why are the Lakers any different? Because they're supposed to be above making such overtures? Because they have championships?
Sometimes that's not going cut it.
No team in the NBA has the luxury of waiting around and hoping for the best, not even the mighty Lakers. Idleness is how you wind up empty-handed. Los Angeles isn't keen on the idea of emerging from this free-agency scrum with nothing.
Howard is the Lakers' future. They hope to build around him, to sell prospective free agents on his presence next summer. Kobe hopes to obtain his sixth championship ring with him. Never, ever forget what's at stake.
Narratives that suggest Howard isn't worth the brouhaha or insinuate that the Lakers are wagering their self-dignity against an overrated agenda aren't looking at the whole picture. They see only a small fraction of it.
A self-indulgent diva or not, Howard can play. Even in what most considered an off year, Howard averaged 17.1 points, 12.4 rebounds and 2.4 blocks a night.
Through the first nine seasons of his career, he's putting up 18.3 points, 12.9 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game. Only six other players in NBA history have posted at least 18 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks per bout through their first nine years—Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Tim Duncan, Artis Gilmore, Elvin Hayes, Shaquille O'Neal and Hakeem Olajuwon.
Four of those players are already in the Hall of Fame, and the two that aren't will inevitably be headed there (Shaq, Timmy). That's the type of player the Lakers are fussing over—a potential Hall of Famer who will go down as one of the most dominant bigs to play the game.
Mincing words on the subject isn't necessary. Howard is one of the best centers the NBA has ever seen. He may not be Kareem or The Dream or even Shaq, but he's still great.
Securing great players dictates you play the game of flattery, make concessions that you otherwise wouldn't. Kind of how the Lakers saw the writing on the wall and dealt Shaq for Kobe. Some of us questioned their logic then. Two championships later, we second-guess nothing.
Similar circumstances apply here. If the Lakers convince Howard to return and they win, all will be forgotten. The billboards, social-media endeavors and essential groveling will be but a footnote, means that justify the ends.
As long as Howard takes notice and embraces the culture the Lakers are attempting to expose him to, Kupchak, Kobe and crew won't be so quickly berated.
Well, he's taken notice.
Everything the Lakers are doing has a purpose, a meaningful one. Their future right in front of them, now's not the time for pride and hubris to impede their judgment.
Los Angeles may be fine without Howard. The Lakers could go on to form a superteam without him next summer.
Right now, they want Howard. And he wants to be fawned over like royalty. So the Lakers are treating him like a king, much like they did Kobe in the past. They're doing what they believe to be necessary.
There's no shame in that.
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