NBA PM: Dwight Howard Exposed in LA?
Dateline: Orlando – Prior to the trade that sent Orlando Magic franchise cornerstone Dwight Howard to the Los Angeles Lakers, there was a little drama that played out more nights than not in the Magic postgame locker room. For those who aren’t familiar with the way the media tends to work, those who are covering games for newspapers have a deadline by which they have to submit their materials, which almost always include quotes from players following games. In the case of the beat writers covering the Magic, a quote from the lone All-Star on the team was a fairly imperative part of their job. Most stars understand this and make sure they make themselves available in a timely manner after games. Not all stars observe this professional courtesy, however, and Dwight seemed to delight in the extra attention he got by making the media wait after games.
He would sit in the training room, which opened directly off of the locker room, in full sight of the media as he ordered a postgame sandwich and ate it leisurely as the beat writers watched the clock and sweated over their fast-approaching deadlines. No interviews are allowed while a player is in the training room, and while Dwight might make jovial conversation as he ate and relaxed, nothing was on the record and it was never about the night’s game. Finally he would come out, sometimes before the beat writers had left to submit their stories and sometimes not.
Through this common situation we can look into what makes Dwight Howard tick, and also perhaps gain some additional insight into why he is struggling to find himself in the media hot bed that is Los Angeles.
First and foremost, Dwight is about Dwight. He loves putting on a show for the crowd, loves being Superman and loves being what in many ways is a walking caricature of a real NBA player. That was fine in Orlando, where the fans were happy to see him on the highlight reel more nights than not and they loved him even if the team lost. That’s not the case in Los Angeles.
Dateline: Los Angeles – Lakers fans loved the trade that brought Howard to town, believing that once again the team that always seems to find a fresh superstar when the one they have starts getting toward the end of his career. As Kobe Bryant plays out the end of his NBA prime, Howard seemed just the right person to build the franchise around going forward.
Unfortunately, problems arose almost immediately. Bryant is a champion who takes every possession of every game seriously. He cares little for dunks and highlight reels as he focuses with a single-minded determination on winning another championship. Anything that diverts the team’s attention away from that one achievement is an unwanted distraction, and Howard’s playful and self-celebrating approach has caused a rift between the two on more than one occasion. Dwight being about Dwight is not conducive to the team concept that is required to win a championship, especially not on a team and in a city where anything less than a championship is considered a miserable failure.
It’s a long way from Orlando to Los Angeles, and not just in physical distance.
The Lakers have a big decision to make as the trade deadline nears and then as summer free agency approaches. Do they invest the future of the franchise in Dwight Howard, or do they trade him or let him walk in an effort to find the next superstar who might actually live up to the legacy of Kobe Bryant? Can Dwight evolve and become the kind of player who makes the team one to be feared night in and night out, or will his highlight-reel mentality persist and bring about a lull in the Lakers’ seemingly endless legacy of being contenders?
There’s no question that Dwight Howard is a talented basketball player, and if he were to take the game as seriously as someone like Shaquille O’Neal or current teammates Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash he might just be the next dominant force in the NBA. As things stand, however, he is little more than a curiosity to fans in Los Angeles. They want to love him, but if he can’t find a higher level of intensity and start delivering wins, they will be ready to run him out of town on a rail by the time the 2012-13 season comes to an end.
Up Close: Andrew Bogut
Golden State Warriors center Andrew Bogut is back in the lineup and working his way towards being 100 percent after ankle surgery. He talks with HOOPSWORLD about the lengthy rehab process, the changing role of the big man in the modern NBA, the Warriors’ current struggles and more in this exclusive interview:
Jazz Tuning Up For Trades?
The closer we get to the NBA trade deadline, the more it sounds like the Utah Jazz are interested in making some moves involving their frontcourt. Both Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap have been the subject of protracted trade speculation, with the San Antonio Spurs and Phoenix Suns among those courting Jefferson and the Houston Rockets considering what it might take to land Millsap.
The issue for Houston with regard to Millsap is that he’s a free agent at the end of the season, so if they give up a number of assets to acquire him and he walks, they lose out on whatever they sent to Utah to make acquiring Millsap’s $8.6 million contract possible. The Rockets certainly have a load of options, especially in the realm of younger power forwards with potential, but are they really going all-in without some kind of guarantee that Millsap will stay in town beyond this season? Sources close to the situation believe that to be unlikely.
Jefferson is also a free agent at the end of the season, but his $15 million contract makes it a little harder to sell him as a long-term investment. He could be used as a salary dump for a team looking to give up real assets, which the Suns in excess, but he could also give the Spurs the big body they’ve really lacked for several seasons. Sure, Tiago Splitter and Matt Bonner have their moments, but a legit frontcourt force like Jefferson could put San Antonio over the top as they look to get Tim Duncan back to the NBA Finals before his career is over.
One way or the other, it sounds like the Jazz are prepared to make a major move. They are inching ever-closer to the eighth seed in the West, and from there it’s a small step to miss the playoffs. Expect Utah to make a move before the deadline.
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