Does Dwight Howard's Decision Reflect Worse on Him or State of LA Lakers?

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Does Dwight Howard's Decision Reflect Worse on Him or State of LA Lakers?
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Following weeks of speculation surrounding Dwight Howard's free-agency decision, he finally settled on a deal with the Houston Rockets, it's hard to really figure whether he or the Los Angeles Lakers look worse in the fallout.

For Howard, he just spent the past year languishing. 

First it was Howard wrestling with the decision between staying with the Orlando Magic or forcing a trade to the Brooklyn Nets.

To be completely fair to Howard, he lived up to his promise from last July, where he said, "There's only one team on my list [Brooklyn] and if I don't get traded there, I'll play the season out and explore my free agency after that."

Once the Nets had finally moved on from Howard and traded for Joe Johnson, it seemed he was doomed to languish for another season in Orlando.

A deal finally did go through when he loosened up his restrictions just a tad and the Lakers tossed Andrew Bynum to Philadelphia as pieces swirled around and Howard landed in Los Angeles.

In the process, Stan Van Gundy was fired by the Magic, Mike Brown was fired by the Lakers and Howard was suddenly saddled with a "coach killer" vibe.

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

By the end of his first, and now only, season with the Lakers, the constant drama and speculation about whether or not he would stay marred an already rough stint, in which the Lakers finished the year in seventh place and were swept by the San Antonio Spurs in the first round of the playoffs.

Leaving Los Angeles was actually the cleanest moment of the past year for Howard, so the damage that was done was mostly on Lakers fans.

While he did have a bit of a wishy-washy moment near the end of Friday night before he ultimately settled on Houston, it wasn't a long, drawn-out process. Howard met with teams on July 1 and 2, making his decision on July 5.

On the other hand, the Lakers did something that doesn't normally happen on the free-agent market: They lost.

Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Down the line in Lakers history, Jerry West never left, neither did Elgin Baylor (it was a bit harder for them to bolt back in the day), Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson or James Worthy.

Later on, Shaquille O'Neal decided that Los Angeles was the place for him, that is until Los Angeles shipped him away in favor of Kobe Bryant.

At that point, the Shaq-Kobe feud was the most embarrassing player control moment in recent memory for L.A.

The two were at odds, and no matter what the Lakers did they couldn't put together a situation in which they could make them cooperate. To fix it, Los Angeles decided upon keeping Kobe.

Even when Kobe spent his mid-career days with Los Angeles complaining about the team and demanding trades, the organization ignored his demands and went on to put together a trade for Pau Gasol the next winter.

Howard willfully walked away from a franchise that constantly has player movement break in their direction, whether it be because of the allure of Los Angeles, tremendous luck, sound management or some combination of the three.

Not only that, they went forward with a campaign that was construed as the team begging Howard to stay in Los Angeles. Dan Patrick summed it up nicely, via MercuryNews.com:

If you're the Lakers, you don't beg people to stay. You say, 'We're all in, are you D12?' Sacramento did this with Chris Webber (in 2001). You're the Lakers. You don't beg. Take down those silly billboards. 'Stay.' 'Please.' 'Pretty please.'

Even worse, their begging yielded nothing. Howard signed with the Rockets and the Lakers were left to shamefully tear down their billboards.

It was a hit for their reputation indeed, but there is a way they can clean up the fallout and create a bit more respect for themselves.

The summer of 2014 will be their time to redeem themselves. Landing LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony or any number of possible free agents next summer would put a bit of pep back into their collective steps.

However, swinging and missing next year leading to a rebuild with subpar components could do some serious damage to Los Angeles' reputation.

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