Where Does Dwight Howard Rank Among Failed LA Lakers Star Stopovers?
Does anybody else remember Gary Payton and Karl Malone? Injuries killed their first "super team" attempt back in 2004.
Oh, and how about the weird period in the mid-'70s when they went ahead and gambled on old veterans just for the fun of it?
While the Lakers have always been a well-run franchise (well, save a few coaching decisions here and there), they also have a strange affinity for names.
Generally, this goes well. It's why they landed Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Shaquille O'Neal.
However, every once in a while they go after a 40-year-old Malone, simply because he is who he is.
So let's take a long, hard look at the quick-stop star players they've housed over their decades of basketball and figure out who just didn't work out.
9. Connie Hawkins
Career Stats: 18.7 points, 8.8 rebounds, 4.1 assists
LAL Stats: 11 points, 6.3 rebounds, 4.3 assists (114 games played, 5 playoff games)
When the Los Angeles Lakers traded for Connie Hawkins, they weren't landing the insanely athletic small forward who had a knack for getting above the rim when most of the game was still played below.
No, they were landing an aging star who made his mark in the ABA before successfully jumping to the NBA where he wasn't quite as efficient, but still a solid player.
For the first 71 games in Los Angeles, Hawkins' transition seemed fine. He played most of the 1974 season on par with the 1973 season.
However, injuries plagued him in 1975, and he averaged all of eight points per game in the 43 in which actually played.
It was a solid gamble for the Lakers, picking up the aging athlete, as they gave up just a second-round pick and Keith Erickson, but he fizzled quickly.
8. Bob Boozer
Career Stats: 14.8 points, 8.1 rebounds, 1.4 assists
LAL Stats: 12.2 points, 7 rebounds, 1.1 assists (78 games played, 10 playoff games)
Bob Boozer wasn't an up-and-comer when the Lakers traded Dick Barnett to the New York Knicks to land him; he was a legitimate player.
The only problem was that his transition from the East Coast to the West Coast was far from perfect.
He doesn't fall too far out of line from his career averages, but his 12.2 points and 7 rebounds came sandwiched between seasons in which he averaged 14 points and eight rebounds, and then 18 points and nine rebounds.
Los Angeles had the opportunity to protect their top seven players, of which Boozer wasn't one, apparently.
7. Gary Payton
Career Stats: 16.3 points, 3.9 rebounds, 6.7 assists
LAL Stats: 14.6 points, 4.2 rebounds, 5.5 assists (82 games played, 22 playoff games)
Gary Payton was actually excellent during his lone season with the Lakers. He played in every game, continued playing solid defense (even though he was 35) and scored with efficiency.
The disappointment came twofold for the Lakers during the 2004 season.
First, the team failed to win another NBA Championship, getting knocked out in the NBA Finals in just five games.
Second, the team broke apart following the season. It wasn't enough that they had brought in two of the greatest players of the past decade; Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal just couldn't be pleased unless they were broken apart.
6. Steve Nash
Career Stats: 14.4 points, 3 rebounds, 8.5 assists
LAL Stats: 12.7 points, 2.8 assists, 6.7 rebounds (50 games played, 2 playoff games)
It was a steal of a trade at the time (although now it seems as if the Lakers would rather have the draft picks), but leave it to this past Lakers' season to be the one in which Nash missed the most games of his career.
When he was on the floor, Nash was far from bad, but he was also not the player we were used to seeing in Phoenix over the past eight seasons.
We all expected him to come in and run another solid Mike D'Antoni offense, piling up assist numbers while knocking in a three-pointer here and there.
However, the Lakers would relegate him to spot-up shooting at times, and while it gave him his highest three-point percentage since 2009, he also took a hit in the assist department, averaging four fewer than the season prior.
Blame it on injuries or blame it on misuse, but Nash's 2013 season was a huge disappointment regardless of how you look at it.
5. Zelmo Beaty
Career Stats: 17.1 points, 10.9 rebounds, 1.5 assists
LAL Stats: 5.5 points, 4.7 rebounds, 1.1 assists (69 games played, 1 greatest name ever)
Despite the fact that Zelmo Beaty had one of the best names in the history of the NBA, his days with the Los Angeles Lakers couldn't have been more disappointing.
Zelmo proved to be an excellent big man for the St. Louis Hawks during the first seven seasons he spent playing basketball.
After seven years, however, he was poached by the ABA and ended up joining the Utah Stars, even winning an ABA Championship with the team in 1971.
However, his return to the NBA in 1975 lasted just 69 disappointing games.
In those 69 games, Big Z scored in double figures just 16 times and put up zero points 15 times.
4. Spencer Haywood
Career Stats: 20.3 points, 10.3 rebounds, 1.8 assists
LAL Stats: 9.7 points, 4.6 rebounds, 1.2 assists (76 games played, 11 playoff games)
The Los Angeles Lakers weren't chasing a name when it came to Spencer Haywood. While he was a well-known player, he was also near the top of his game when he went to Los Angeles in 1979.
Los Angeles was so high on Haywood that they gave away promising youngster Adrian Dantley to get him in town.
During the 1979 season, Haywood averaged 20 points and eight rebounds while playing for both the New York Knicks and New Orleans Jazz, only to see his production cut in half a year later with Los Angeles.
The problem? Haywood had a nasty cocaine habit.
It was so bad that he was kicked off the team during the NBA Finals for falling asleep during practice.
3. Karl Malone
Career Stats: 25 points, 10.1 rebounds, 3.6 assists
LAL Stats: 13.2 points, 8.7 rebounds, 3.9 assists (42 games played, 21 playoff games)
Injuries and a bit of the old "too many cooks in the kitchen" syndrome killed any kind of hope the Lakers had of making something good out of the 2004 mishmash of a squad.
Karl Malone tore his MCL in December of 2003, keeping him out of the next 39 games. An additional knee sprain during the NBA Finals led him to sit out the final game of the series.
The only thing anybody really ever got out of Malone on the Lakers was a lot of heightened expectations and the willies from seeing him in a Lakers uniform.
That, and he never did get that NBA Championship that eluded him for 19 seasons.
2. Dennis Rodman
Career Stats: 7.3 points, 13.1 rebounds, 1.8 assists
LAL Stats: 2.1 points, 11.2 rebounds, 1.3 assists (23 games played)
However, ever once in a while a picture will pop up of him in a Dallas Mavericks or Los Angeles Lakers jersey, and things just get confusing.
It was a blink of an eye in the long, strange career that Rodman put together, and the only purpose he served was pulling down rebounds and looking awkward.
Rodman was still a magnificent rebounder, but they picked him up for the end of the season, and he never really fell into a groove with the Lakers.
1. Dwight Howard
Career Stats: 18.2 points, 12.9 rebounds, 1.5 assists
LAL Stats: 17.1 points, 12.5 rebounds, 1.4 assists (76 games played, 4 playoff games)
Dwight Howard's lone season with the Los Angeles Lakers will likely go down as an awkward hiccough in his career.
Howard wasn't statistically much worse than his final season with the Orlando Magic. He even led the league in rebounding, but nobody will argue that he was on par with the rest of his career.
However, it's not the fact that he was noticeably worse than the rest of his career that makes him the worst star rental of the franchise's history. It's what his departure means for the image of the franchise that really puts him in the top spot.
Los Angeles has been fine with taking gambles throughout the history of the NBA. Winning 16 NBA Championships generally means they won more of those gambles than they lost.
The Lakers gambled on trading for Howard and ended up losing big-time, swinging and whiffing in the biggest free-agency debacle in team history.
It might end up being a positive in the long run, but the fact that a big-name free agent actually left L.A. is completely stunning when you look back throughout the team's history.
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