Dwight Howard Decision: The Lakers Thankfully Saved from Themselves

William Van NollFeatured ColumnistJuly 6, 2013

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 02:  Dwight Howard #12 of the Los Angeles Lakers looks up at the clock from the bench during a 113-103 Magic win at Staples Center on December 2, 2012 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

Los Angeles Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak's statement on Dwight Howard's decision reads as an episode in disappointment, but has a distinct air of relief to it—and rightfully so.

It's about moving on. It's about finding a "different direction." It's about building "the best team possible."

And it's about liberating themselves from the Dwight Howard apathy that plagued the ballclub last season and was sure to plague them for five more years if the Lakers unwillingly got their way.

Obligatory PR statement aside, the Lakers—much like Howard—should be devoid of any truly strong emotional reactions over the Howard decision because, as Bill Plaschke of The Los Angeles Times points out, their hearts were never really in it.

How can it feel like anger when the Lakers never put forth a genuine effort?

How can it feel like betrayal when Howard was never trusted in the first place?

How can it feel like frustration when Howard's departure does more good for the team than ill?

Sure, re-signing Howard and then shuffling the deck chairs around the 6'11'' superstar was the easy road for the next half decade.

The Lakers would have their superstar to build around, Kobe could hand over the keys to the castle and move onto greener pastures, Staples Center seats would continue to be filled and all would be right in Tinseltown.

But could a Howard-led team actually compete for rings?

In an NBA game becoming more and more about the open floor and perimeter play, a team built around a player with unrefined post moves would surely struggle against the run-and-gun, shoot-'em-up, knock-'em-down likes of the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder.

Not to mention the fact that the Lakers would have to count on Howard as a leader—the same player that chose to get ejected in the team's final playoff game and leave his team to wallow on the floor versus the San Antonio Spurs after their true leader, Kobe Bryant, was lost for the season with a torn Achilles.

Team sources via ESPN say Dwight Howard was "emotionless" during their pitch to stay in LA, barely looking the Lakers in the eye.

It's unsurprising, to say the least.

During this one-year test drive, Howard's shortcomings became abundantly clear.

He couldn't handle the LA media. He couldn't handle the bright lights or the pressure that went along with it. He couldn't handle being second fiddle to Kobe Bryant.

So after meeting with five teams from across the U.S. of all shapes and sizes, Howard left LA to play in a smaller sandbox where he can finally rule the playground. 

I'm happy Howard found a place where he can be happy.

I'm happy for Houston, who is happy to find relevancy with a superstar they can call their own.

And, candidly, I'm happy for the Lakers.

Howard saved the Lakers from themselves by making the most prudent decision for them.

It's time to swallow the pill and look towards the future.

Why put off the necessary fixes and delay the inevitable to endure five more years of Howard's ups-and-downs as he discovers himself as a leader?

I'll tune into the sure-to-be greenlit Dwight Howard reality show on Comcast SportsNet Houston for all that coming-of-age, playtime nonsense.

Meanwhile, the Lakers can get back to being the Lakers which, in my mind, is the more compelling story.

The bouts against Father Time and financial gravity.

The spurned coach trying to find a way.

The family organization in a sea of change trying to find their new patriarch.

And the willingness of their unquestioned leader, through it all, to rise up and disprove the doubters.

They wouldn't be the Lakers without a dash of drama, and in the face of the adversity, there is still the belief, almost maniacal conviction, that somehow, someway, the Lakers will emerge from the darkness as they've done time and time again to reclaim their spot atop the basketball world.

With such high stakes and such great responsibility, the playful Dwight Howard just wasn't up to task.