Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers are 0-2. They blew a six-point lead in less than a minute on Christmas day against the Bulls and the next day were embarrassed by a Kings team that played a less sophisticated brand of basketball than you see on the playground.
Kobe's playing with a torn ligament in his shooting wrist. Andrew Bynum is suspended (and he'll almost certainly spend another month on the bench with an injury at some point this year). The front office tried to fill the void they created by trading Lamar Odom with Josh McRoberts (overrated) and Troy Murphy (underrated). Derek Fisher was too old two years ago. If any high-profile team in the league is due for an overhaul, it's the Lakers.
Dwight Howard is just 26 years old and is possibly the only truly dominant center in today's guard-heavy NBA. With the exception of Miami's LeBron James, he's the most physically imposing force in basketball. He's the three-time reigning defensive player of the year. And he's listed the Lakers as one of three teams he'd sign an extension with if traded. The other two are Dallas and New Jersey and you have to believe the latter is out of the running for the time being because of Brook Lopez's recent foot surgery.
Now is the perfect time for the Lakers to make an aggressive push for Howard. Everything seems to be coming together for this. Both teams are in a state of turmoil. The Lakers have the financial capacity to take on the contract of Hedo Turkoglu (who the Magic will insist on dumping in any Howard deal) and sign Howard to a long-term extension.
What would you rather have to build around post-Kobe? Pau Gasol (31 years old, just past his prime and already has a reputation for being soft) and Andrew Bynum (young, but has missed significant time due to injury in five of his six NBA seasons and has career averages of 10.5 points and 7.1 rebounds a game)? Or Dwight Howard (26 years old, three-time defensive player of the year, force inside on both ends and the first or second best rebounder in the NBA)?
The choice seems obvious. No matter how much they have to give up, trading for Howard would make the Lakers better now and would give them a bright future as Kobe declines into a post-superstar state.
For the sake of the Lakers, I hope Jim Buss is publicly saying he won't trade his two big men to keep everyone level-headed right now. Behind the scenes, he should call Otis Smith and the Orlando Magic and say, "We'll give you anything besides Kobe Bryant for Dwight Howard."
To me, a fair deal would be: Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum, Devin Ebanks and a few draft picks for Dwight Howard, Hedo Turkoglu and Ryan Anderson.
Yes, Los Angeles would lose two solid (and perhaps every once in a while, great) seven-footers. Yeah, they'd lose a promising young forward who's currently starting in Devin Ebanks. But the acquisition would be worth it.
Adding Howard would energize Kobe and the rest of the organization and L.A.'s two superstars would be one of the league's premier duos for at least two or three years. And over that time period, a slow and seamless transition from Kobe's team to Dwight's team could take place.
Despite what the Lakers may tell you, any deal built around Gasol and Bynum for Howard will favor Los Angeles. The Magic should probably still pull the trigger because it's the best they can get (partly because Howard wouldn't sign an extension if he was traded to the Bulls).
They can take a very good package from the Lakers, an OK (at best) package from the Nets, or let Howard walk for nothing in free agency this summer.
Even if the Lakers hadn't started slow this season, trading for Howard makes too much sense not to go for it. The 0-2 start may be the fuel this fire needs.