Friday, August 10, 2012

What to Make of Dwight Howard as a Laker

Dwight Howard's not sure why you're so upset. (
There's no reason to like him.

Dwight Howard is personable in public, likes to crack wise, and, hell, he even recorded a Kidz Bop album (quality not to be mentioned) in an attempt to endear himself to fans. He is can be a good sport and sells it all with a charming smile.

Howard damaged his public image, though, as he snaked his way out of Orlando and the extension he chose to sign that would have kept him as the Magic's centerpiece for the 2012-13 season. Maybe, to the casual fan, that's no big deal. But NBA diehards will not — should not — forget Howard's actions.

Howard tried to preserve his reputation by stating publicly his intention to stay with the organization that drafted him in 2004. Amidst rumors that Stan Van Gundy could be a victim of the Dwightmare, Howard put on a fabricated front. All was naught, because word leaked that, despite signing the extension, behind closed doors Howard still desired a trade.

He may redeem himself in time. Lakers fans will love him as soon as his first promotional photos are released, if they aren't already fawning.

As they should. No matter your take on Howard's tactics leading to the massive four-team trade which landed him in Los Angeles and, including draft picks, shuffled more than 12 players around the league — he made the right choice. That statement does not need to appear in bold font because it should not shock anyone.

Few places can offer the talent that will surround Howard as the yellow-clad team of Staples Center. Remember, the Lakers were Howard's original team of choice before being swayed by the Brooklyn Nets. Howard has wanted to be part of a superstar cast rather than be a roster's headliner since the beginning of this messy saga.

The Orlando front office simply wasn't getting it done. Gilbert Arenas is not Kobe Bryant. As strong as he came on last season, Ryan Anderson is not Pau Gasol. For what he can do, Jameer Nelson is light-years away from being Steve Nash.

If he wants a ring sooner than later, Howard did the right thing. If he wants a bigger or longer contract in a place of his own choosing, Howard has the right to explore free agency next summer. The trade was, ultimately, a business decision made by the Magic. They forsook better offers from Brooklyn and the Houston Rockets, and were forced to settle for less.

Dealing Howard before seeing him on the court again was right for multiple reasons (locker room presence, the aftermath of back surgery, et al.). The Orlando front office is right for having done it. And for all the hemming and hawing, Howard is right purely on a basketball level for having forced the Magic's hand.

Assuming he wants to win now, Howard has improved his place in the NBA, even if he unmasked himself in the process.

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