Curse of the Lost Superman: Why Dwight Howard Will Join Kobe Bryant and Lakers
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Superman comes to the rescue and comes quickly. What you don't know and shouldn't know is that Superman is also a bit prejudiced.
He hates Orlando.
He also has a certain love for boardwalks filled with blonde, bronzed, bikini'd babes.
If my name is Stan Van Gundy, I am presently at the drug store buying hemorrhoid cream. My team is on the line, the city is lilting again in a prophetic doom and I may be out of a job really soon.
I am muttering a phrase over and over beneath my candied Burt Reynolds mustache, "history is doomed to repeat itself," and I am imagining an organization built around Gilbert Arenas and Brandon Bass. "This can't be good," I continue while placing the box on the counter next to a plug of cherry ChapStick. The checker girl looks up befuddled and asks, "What is that sir?"
"Uh." I pull the ChapStick from the counter, bludgeon the box into my pants and skirt out the door with a hundred dollar bill stuck to my forehead. "Not in the mood," I yell, running to the nearby shrink to undergo a bit of psycho-therapy.
Welcome to life in the Orlando Magic organization, a never-ending rat race where coaches and management are always trying to hold back their superman from flying the coup in order to win championships elsewhere.
Why not Orlando?
The city has everything a Superman would desire: beautiful women, tropical weather, a dynamic fanbase and an owner willing to spend big bucks. The team has an incredible way of bouncing back from major setbacks in order to compete at a high level nearly every year. They draft well year in year out, make the playoffs consistently and have been to two finals in the last 16 years.
So what gives?
The L.A. Lakers are what give: they give a whole lot of Hollyweird exposure and open a heavenly door to the likes of 16 championships. They are the golden road to god-like status and a surer bet to a Hall of Fame induction ceremony.
I am going to play a little exercise with you for a moment. Take a minute and list the greatest Orlando Magic players of all-time. (Keep thinking)...(Almost there)...I know this is difficult, which is why I am giving the organization a royal F.
1. Shaq 2. Dwight Howard 3. Tracy McGrady 4. Penny Hardaway 5. Nick Anderson? A haggard Gilbert Arenas?
Now do the same for the L.A. Lakers. The difficulty is not how few players there are to list, rather how many players there are who are worthy of being listed. Shoot, even the likes of Kurt Rambis would rank above Penny Hardaway at fourth all time on the Magic list.
1. Wilt 2. Kareem 3. Magic 4. Shaq 5. Kobe? West? Baylor?
Let's just say the Lakers get an A in every category and a 1,000 percent for having the perfect trade bits to send Orlando's way in order to ease the tension a tad on Mr. Van Gundy. There is no surprise in the fact that Dwight Howard wants out of Orlando. The team has nose-dived in the playoffs since their appearance in the 2009 NBA Finals.
Dwight, the three-time Defensive Player of the Year, five time All-Star and second coming of Bill Russell is pound for pound the strongest player in the league. His Adonis physique, rebounding prowess and fly-swatter skills are unparalleled in today’s game. Not to mention he is coming off his best offensive showing in his career this season at 22.9 points per night.
With an improving free throw percentage and a growing ability to stay out of foul trouble, it is safe to say Howard is a once-in-a-decade kind of big man. He is the new-gen Shaquille O'Neal with a larger than life persona and friendliness on and off the court that is both admirable and addicting for the average fan.
When it is all said and done is Dwight Howard...
A perfect blend between the more defensive minded Russell and the offensive aimed Shaquille O'Neal, Howard is this current generation's dominate Zeus figure.
For comparison's sake, let’s take a look at Russell’s seventh season of his career, Shaq's and then Howard's.
Bill Russell: 1962-1963, 16.8 points, 23.6 rebounds, .432 field goal percentage and .555 free throw percentage.
Shaquille O'Neal: 1998-1999, 26.3 points, 10.2 rebounds, 1.7 blocks, .576 field goal percentage and .540 free throw percentage.
Dwight Howard: 2010-2011: 22.9 points, 14.1 rebounds, 2.4 blocks, .593 field goal percentage and .596 free throw percentage.
Despite rumors regarding NYC and OKC, the L.A. Lakers have not only the city itself to offer the Superman Jr., but the trade chips, the dollars and most importantly an unknown cat by the name of Kobe Bryant.
Have you heard of him?
At this point in his career, does Kobe need Dwight?
The Black Mamba is aging, there is no debating that. He clearly cannot carry a club any longer and is need of help now more than at any time in his career. A superstar big like Howard would not only take the offensive load off of Bryant's shoulders, but he would the media load off as well, as the new face in the whirlwind of Los Angeles.
For Kobe, the unlikable thing has always been a sticky point for the five-time champion. No matter what the great star does, his somewhat aloof personality toward the media and insatiable will to win rubs fans and critics the wrong way.
If we're the two-by-four, Bryant is the sander gnawing at our splintered shoulders.
But what none of us can deny is the man's will to win, his longevity of greatness and superior abilities to close out games. His 25.3 points per night this season were evidence that the Mamba still has fuel left in the tank.
With rumored differences between both Bryant and Pau Gasol, Odom's unneeded reality show and inconsistent play, Artest newfound salvation and Bynum's glass knees, the Lakers have the bag of goodies to toss Orlando's way.
Considering Orlando already has an improving rebounding power forward in Brandon Bass, a player comparable to Horace Grant is to fair to say the Magic would be interested in the 23-year-old Bynum, another star, a role player and probably a future first-round pick in exchange for Howard.
Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak has expressed his indifference at the idea of trading his project in Andrew Bynum. But it is farfetched to think Kupchak would pass up on a chance to continue the Lakers' lineage of stars to stubbornly hold onto an over-confident big with bad knees and a really bad attitude.
Freeing up the $14.25 million owed Bynum, $8.25 million owed Odom and a mid-level role player like Steve Blake would not only allow the Lakers to lock up Howard to a large scale contract extension, but re-assess the direction they intend on moving.
For the Magic, they get two stars with championship experience to build their team around. Having a big like Bynum and an unguardable combo forward like Odom offers two more dynamic mismatches on an already frenetically mismatched roster.
Teaming Odom out on the perimeter with a guard tandem of Gilbert Arenas and athletic slasher Jason Richardson, not only spaces the floor with three dribble speed prospects but opens up the inside game for Bynum still looking to prove he can be a dominate center. Having a less-demanding big in Bynum takes pressure off of Van Gundy's run and gun three-point style offenses and allows the Magic to finally find their true identity to live and die by the three.
Though it is impossible to argue the Magic are better without Howard, it is safe to say they are more offensively explosive and defensively implosive with a guard-heavy roster, a step-out forward in Bass and a still-maturing Bynum. Their rich bench then acts as a refuge for the tired starters who can look for subs when necessary, subs with the keen ability to score.
Adding Howard to the Lakers automatically improves them defensively. His addition insures Lakers management that they can get back to their fourth-ranked team defense in 2010. Taking defensive pressure off of the sometimes soft and somewhat poorly conditioned Gasol can allow the power forward to focus on what he is best at, which is knocking down the face-up 10-15 foot jump shot and crashing the offensive boards.
Most importantly though, adding Howard may bring back a bit of the thug Ron Artest, who is sorely missed in Los Angeles when it comes his past heroics on the defensive side of the ball. Artest has clearly lost his competitive edge since joining the Lakers and experiencing emotional antiquity, but could hopefully experience a late-career renaissance on the defensive side of things with inspiration from Howard.
Primarily, Howard adds longevity to Kobe Bryant's career which not only benefits the Lakers, who are still solely built around him, but benefits the Lakers fanbase that is always seething for championships. Having your franchise face, one of the greatest this league has ever seen, is never a bad thing and should continue to inflate the Lakers' domestic and overseas economy with both Bryant and Howard's jersey sales.
This increased economic benefit helps alleviate some of the burden of the eighteen million a year owed Pau Gasol until 2014.
With a power ménage-a-twois in Bryant, Howard and Gasol, the Lakers are easily back into title contention with Dallas, OKC, Miami and Chicago. A rich blend of young talent in Shannon Brown, defensive-minded lockdown role players in Matt Barnes and Ron Artest, twin towers and the Mamba at the helm, the Lakers are more diverse than ever before with a similar presence to the original Showtime.
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