Among the soap opera that has been the 2012-13 Los Angeles Lakers, a lot remains unclear going into this coming offseason. Will Spanish big man Pau Gasol be traded away? Is Mike D’Antoni the right coach for this Lakers roster? Will the nickname of ‘‘Vino’’ actually stick with Kobe Bryant? But perhaps the biggest story line will be whether All-Star center Dwight Howard will remain a Laker come 2013-14.
Will Dwight Howard be a Los Angeles Laker come 2013-14? Photo Credit: Bridget Samuels, Flickr.com
Things haven’t been easy since the blockbuster four-team trade that saw the Lakers snatch Howard from the claws of the Orlando Magic. He could only play in two of the Lakers preseason games and looked physically off-the-pace come the start of the regular season as L.A stuttered out of the starting blocks — a 1-4 start saw coach Mike Brown relieved of his duties. Before the season started, people had the Los Angeles Lakers as the second favorites to win the NBA championship, but it soon became a question as to whether they would even participate in the playoffs.
Fast forward six months and the Lakers are on the rise. Howard and Bryant haven’t exactly had the best relationship in the world, but it seems as though they are now on the same page, working towards a common goal. Since the All-Star break Howard and Bryant have led the Lakers to an impressive 11-4 record and it looks as if they will comfortably make the playoffs — just edging out a gritty Utah Jazz team.
There’s no doubt that the L.A Lakers are a sleeper team in the stacked Western Conference. They will give any of the top seeded teams a very difficult series. Any team that has two of the top 10 players in the league (Howard and Bryant) would be the same. However, it’s hard to see them winning a championship this year. They’ll have to learn, build and move on to come back stronger next term. However, it isn’t as simple as that. Howard could up and leave come July 1– but where would he go?
Being from Atlanta, Howard could be naturally inclined to sign with his hometown team and try and guide them to a championship. If you combine that with Atlanta’s huge cap space and it is easy to see why many are predicting that D12 lines up in the Phillips Arena come the start of next season. He has also said that he wants to build his own dynasty and what better dynasty and legacy is there then winning a championship in your hometown for a team that has never done so?
Having said that, the Hawks will not be in contention for an NBA title any time soon. For that reason alone, it’s hard to see Howard leaving L.A for Atlanta.
Passing of the torch: Dwight Howard will end up being the go-to-guy in L.A. Photo Credit: (Flickr.com)
The Brooklyn Nets have been long-time admirers of Dwight Howard and made a push at trying to trade for him in the 2011-12 offseason. Alas, it didn’t happen, but don’t rule out a move for the three-time Defensive Player of the Year again this time around. However, the Nets have little cap room flexibility and they also now have an All-Star center of their own: Brook Lopez.
Houston is an interesting one. They acquired a star of their own in James Harden and still have room for one more max contract. If Howard does decide to pair up with the bearded one, I see no reason why the Rockets can’t push themselves back into title contention. However, is Houston really where Howard wants to be? I’m not so sure. Certainly the dark horses, though.
Los Angeles Lakers
When push comes to shove, Dwight Howard will remain a Laker. I can’t see him turning his back on Jim Buss and the Lakers organization. Despite the early-season turmoil, it seems like the Lakers have turned it around, which leads me to concluding that Dwight Howard remains in the Purple and Gold for the next five to 10years.