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Breaking Down Dwight Howard’s Decision 2.0

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dwight howard to houston rockets

Here we are again with Dwight Howard. Seems like yesterday I was writing the Lakers into the Finals after they had traded for him. Now it’s time to weigh the impact of his departure from LA and arrival to Houston.

Just like LeBron James in 2010, Howard was the prized free agent in this year’s class.

Just like LeBron, Howard is a ring-less superstar facing questions about his character and legacy.

Just like LeBron, Howard’s handling of his “decision” was ill-conceived and bordered on ridiculous at times.

But it’s the differences between the signings of James and Howard that are most interesting:

Laker fans are incredibly well-adjusted or in denial.

Methinks it’s closer to the latter.

Cavaliers fans and (infamously) the team’s owner collectively lost their sh-t when LeBron went to Miami. Surprisingly, the reaction from Laker fans ranged from “meh” to “good riddance.”

dwight-howard-rockets-billboard

And that’s fine. The season will play out in a few months, and we’ll know how well the team was able to move on.

Looking at it objectively, the Lakers lost the best player on next season’s opening day roster (Assuming Kobe is human and won’t be healthy by then). Howard, with a full offseason to recover from back surgery, will be better than he was last season…a season in which he led the league in rebounding. That’s a big loss for a team that wheezed to the seventh seed in the West last year.

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The Lakers are looking at a lineup of Steve Nash, Jodie Meeks, Metta World Peace Ron Artest, Jordan Hill, and Pau Gasol for at least the first third of the season. I’m putting that team firmly behind the Clippers, Spurs, Thunder, Rockets, Warriors, and Grizzlies in the West. I don’t think Chris Kaman moves the needle much either.

While Laker fans try to talk themselves into a competitive team this season and LeBron James next season after The Decision 2.0, I’ll offer this dose of reality: the Lakers are looking at another 7th or worse seed, and LeBron James is not walking through that door.

Dwight has “his team” again.

dwight howard to houston rockets

One of the loudest critiques of LeBron’s Decision painted him as weak for joining his (friend and) rival, Dwyane Wade in Miami instead of leading his team against all comers.

For a variety of reasons, Howard has been handled differently. Like Shaquille O’Neal before him, Howard seemed to outgrow Orlando; feuding with his coach before eventually forcing his way out of town. Howard went from a team he unquestionably led, to one he absolutely did not in LA. The Kobe/Dwight beef that existed on some level has been covered in great detail. It was undoubtedly part of the reason Howard chose to sign with Houston.

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Howard again has his face on the marquee with the Rockets and James Harden, better than any of his teammates in Orlando, at his side. But why will this situation end any differently than it did in Orlando? It’s hard to win an NBA championship. And as Oklahoma City learned, a season can swing with one seemingly minor freak accident. Failure to at least reach the Finals will shift all the scrutiny LeBron has received onto Howard’s shoulders. LeBron quieted his critics only after three straight Finals appearances and two rings. What are the odds Howard can recreate that success? There are no moral victories for minor league coaches Howard after this move.

That’s why Howard’s decision is intriguing. He removed the safety net protecting him from the criticism reserved only for LeBron, Tony Romo, and Alex Rodriguez in the recent past. His teammates were never that good in Orlando, there were a million and one injuries in LA, now it’s on Howard to deliver.

What do you think? Does Howard have what it takes to lead Houston to a title in the next four years (the length of his new contract)? On a scale from 1 to Bobcats, how screwed are the Lakers this season and going forward? With most of the impactful players now signed, who do you predict to win the West next season?

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I’m happy to have some NBA buzz during the offseason. Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Comment(34)

  1. Ppersonally I thought Golden State was the better choice, Curry/Thompson/Iggy > Harden/Parsons/Lin or Westbrook Killa. I got the Thunder, Spurs, Clippers all ahead of the Rockets for now but in 2 years maybe Houston can be a top west contender. Howard would need to inspire the team to play defense, or at least be willing to hold the fort alone like Tyson Chandler in 2011.

    As far as the #LOLakers go, I would amnesty Pau, tell Kobe to Derrick Rose it and join the #riggingforWiggins brigade, but they’re the Lakers and will just aspire to be another 7-8 seed, and assume Melo or LeBron is just dying to rock purple and gold in 2014, while Phil Jackson gets Tebow-esque chants during home losses.

    1. I am assuming that you picked your GSW threesome under the assumption that the Lakers would have traded for Harrison Barnes. I suspect that the Lakers would have wanted Thompson and either Lee or Bogut as well. For the trade to work, GSW would have had to give up either Thompson or Barnes and either Bogut or Lee. Having said all of that, I think Houston is a better fit stylistically than GSW for Howard.

  2. It’s interesting you say GSW was the better fit, but don’t put them ahead of Houston. They’ll be very good with Iggy, but they lost a lot in Jack/Landry. I hope the Warriors can remain good, love watching playoff games at Oracle.

    Regarding the Lakers (and their fans), I’m not sure why they think LeBron or Melo are dying to jump ship. Melo maaaaaaybe because the Knicks are worse off than Miami, but both teams are better than a Lakers squad with only a 40 y/o Steve Nash under contract.

    1. the knicks are stuck against the cap, unless Amare stoudemire’s knees stop sounding like Wale’s bed springs and becomes a tradeable asset or just disappears off the face of the earth, i can see Melo getting far away from there

      1. Lol @ Amare’s knees. I imagine the left one is higher pitched.

        Fair point about the cap. Melo fought so hard to get to NY, I’d be surprised if he would bolt so soon. But you never know…LA def has the mystique of “greener pastures”.

  3. I have a lot to say on this but the main problem in this assessment is there is nothing to suggest Kobe won’t be ready on day one and you keep saying he won’t be. He’s already shooting in the gym, jumping off the foot, and able to balance his full weight on just the toes of the ankle.

    I’ll be back with more later.

  4. Does Howard have what it takes to lead Houston to a title in the next four years (the length of his new contract)?

    No. He'll never win a ring. He doesn't have what it takes and James Harden isn't good enough to carry him to one.

    On a scale from 1 to Bobcats, how screwed are the Lakers this season and going forward?

    Screwed? They're the LAKERS! They'll probably have Lebron, Kyrie Irving and Derrick Rose in 2015.

    With most of the impactful players now signed, who do you predict to win the West next season?

    Oklahoma City. Clippers second.

    1. I hear your last point. And the roster is sufficiently gutted to re-make the roster next season. I think this year might be another “rough” one for them. Understanding that a 7-seed would be the ceiling for my Pistons.

      1. Off topic, but do you think Josh Smith will help any, or will he just get in Monroe's and Drummond's way and be resorted to shooting threes?

        1. It’ll be crowded for sure, but I’m ok with it ultimately. I’d rather have more talent than less, and he might be the best player on the team. I could see him working the wing and block opposite Drummond, with Monroe at the high post.

          The bigger need is a PG, with Calderok walking and Dumars (stupidly) failing to draft one, I’m not sure what the answer is. Think Brandon Knight is better as a 2, and Stuckey is better on a different roster.

  5. I really don't agree with the notion that the team has been gutted or doesn't have talent on the court. We've never seen this team play a full season. I'd keep in mind that Nash was hurt for much the year, Gasol missed time too, as well as, Blake. If the team is healthy I don't know why all-star caliber players such as Nash, Bryant and Gasol can't win just as many games as a team that only played like 30 games together last year won. There's just no evidence. People keep saying, "Look at this team! They're horrible." Meanwhile, there's nothing but intuition backing that up.

    I'm telling you right now the Rockets aren't going to win many more games than they won last year. And they barely made the playoffs. They've got new players and need to make a transition to see how Harden and Dwight can coexist in the paint.

    The Lakers on the other hand are in a completely different place. Don't be surprised if the Lakers win more games this year and the Rockets win less games.

    But i'm chilling, i'd much rather everyone thinks the Lakers are headed to the lottery again.

    1. Before last season began, I was saying Dwight isn't much of an upgrade over Bynum, but teaming a healthy Steve Nash with Pau Gasol, and Kobe being Kobe makes the Lakers dangerous. Howard really just got in the way and Pau didn't have room down low to operate. The key to the Lakers being a contender was always Nash. (In fact, I believe I warned you last year about Nash's staying healthy away from Phoenix's training staff, and that could derail the team.) That's why losing Dwight is really no big deal. Get 65 games out of Nash and Kobe at 80%, and the Lakers will win 50 games.

      And I agree 100% about the Rockets chances next year. Even though the Rockets have more depth than the Lakers, and assuming Dwight is 100% healthy, they aren't a serious contender. They'll be like David Robinson's Spurs or Nash's Suns: a very competitive team with around 55 wins annually, but never good enough to make the Finals.

    2. "I'm telling you right now the Rockets aren't going to win many more games than they won last year. And they barely made the playoffs. "

      Shhhh!!! People barely realize they were an 8th seed last year. Let 'em cook lolol.

    3. I think the Lakers will be worse because Deight is gone and Kobe will undoubtedly be diminished. Add to that Nash is a year older, and other teams have improved and you have the recipe for another season like last year.

      I DO think a healthy Nash and Gasol is dangerous, just not counting on it for a full season. Nash is a year older and Gasol has yet to find a place in the MDA offense. How is he in the pick n roll? No hate, actually curious. I know he’s a great passer, but I’m not sure I’ve seen much of him working with the PG.

      1. Forgot to mention the bench, which was terrible last season. Now they have three holes to fill in the starting lineup with one gone (Dwight), one almost gone (Metta), and another hurt already (Kobe).

        I think the bench/depth has to be addressed before you say they’ll be better next season.

      2. I'm just going to remember all of this…

        Ain't no way a team can have as many injuries as we had last year. None. I can't buy into the "recipe for another season like last year" mentality. Also, activity is not progress.

        I would also caution anyone on thinking that MDA's offense will not be put in place now that he has a full training camp and offseason to do so. They very well may continue where they left off and may invest even more in the inside out approach. MDA is just as interested as anyone else in not being the blame or the main distraction for this team's performance. He let it go last year and nobody can say he's going to go back to it this year.

  6. Does Howard have what it takes to lead Houston to a title in the next four years (the length of his new contract)?

    Does he have what it takes? As far as ability, sure he has what it takes. The question is will the pieces around him become a situation where the sum of the whole is greater than the individual parts (as was the case in Orlando back in '09 when they reached the Finals). Also, plenty of competition in the West. If he doesn't win a ring it won't be solely because of his play, put it like that.

  7. Ok, so about the Lakers….it's always hard to make a solid prediction because we all just assume the way the roster is currently constructed is going to be how it is opening day and midway through the season. Not saying that won't be the case, but Mitch Kupchak has ways of making certain tweeks here and there so we'll see.

    With the Kaman signing it appears the Lakers plan on trading Pau Gasol….not sure why else we would sign Kaman. We don't NEED another center (and not sure how Kaman and Gasol work in D'Antoni's offense together) what we do need are athletic wings. Personally, I like Gasol, but I'm thinking Kupchak moves Gasol (and his contract), a valuable asset, somewhere to get wing help. Also, looks like we amnesty Ron Artest.

    But all that is just speculation…maybe Kaman is just there for depth, nothing more, nothing less. As far as LeBron and Melo I'm not exactly holding my breath, lol.

    1. Addressed the roster comment above, and I agree there’s more wok to do ok the roster. That bench was wack last year though, and definitely worse with three starter spots now open.

      1. Bench was inconsistent to put it nicely, I'll admit. However, Jordan Hill, Steve Blake and Jodie Meeks were solid when not injured (Hill and Blake) and getting rotation minutes (Meeks).

        Blake actually came up huge late in the season (albeit in a starting role due to Bryant and Nash injuries). But, we don't have a Norris Cole, Ray Allen or Shane Battier/Mike Miller combos coming off the bench, you're right.

  8. at best, a fully healed Howard on the Rockets, i think they could be a 3 or 4 seed…so long as Lin can distribute the ball to him (i wasn't sold on him entirely when he was with the Knicks, nothing has changed my opinion of him now) and Harden and Howard can play well off of each other. and HOPEFULLY, Hakeem can teach him some moves he can remember.

    lakers..i haven't been following but if kobe is kobe, i'm sure he'll be ready in time for the start of the season. i thought the Lakers were going to amnesty Metta Wo…Ron Artest tho…but they picked up the Duke kid, Kelly…so i'm presuming he's the replacement for MWP. i think they'll be in the hunt, if they're healthy Kobe will push them to the playoffs, but they gotta figure out a defensive scheme under 'Antoni (no D – #ayo)

    1. If you think Ryan Kelly will not be anyone’s replacement. He can shoot and all, but he’s just not that good. I think the confidence in Kobe is admirable, but I’m trusting science. He’s gonna be rehabbing into the start of the season.

      Rockets will be better. Harden will get 1000 assists a game with his ability to drive, draw help, and dish.

  9. What do you think?

    I think crazy thoughts

    Does Howard have what it takes to lead Houston to a title in the next four years (the length of his new contract)?

    They need one more playmaker/defender like James Harden and they got a great shot. The team as currently constructed, hell to the no.

    Question, if they got Rondo without giving up any big pieces, how would they fare?

    On a scale from 1 to Bobcats, how screwed are the Lakers this season and going forward?

    I will go with Dr J & hold off on judgement. The Lakers got Pau Gasol off some b*llshit, so it wouldn’t shock me if they got a Rudy Gay or a Danny Granger type player for nothing. You gotta let half the season play out.

    With most of the impactful players now signed, who do you predict to win the West next season?

    Who will have the best record? The Warriors

    Who will win the West Finals?

    The Clippers

    I’m happy to have some NBA buzz during the offseason.

    Praise White Jesus!!!

    1. There are people out there who would tell you the Pau trade was legit *cough*Dr. J*cough*

      I tend to agree though. The Lakers always end up ok. They literally have one person under contract for next year, so they could overhaul with whoever they want to keep from this year’s squad and one of the big FAs.

      Think the Clippers are strong as well. Don’t know if they’ll win the West. I’ll let the rest of the signings shake out…but they’re really good. Big upgrade at coach too.

      1. @Joe Sargent

        There are people out there who would tell you the Pau trade was legit *cough*Dr. J*cough*

        I am for the BS, but I am for calling a Spade a Spade.

        Lakers will be fine. It would be great if we had a Lakers-Heat Final next year!

  10. I was a big D12 fan when he was in Orlando, now not so much. Until he develops some post moves, learns to hit free throws somewhat consistently, and stop getting in his feelings all the damn time, it doesn't matter where he plays, he won't be the completely dominant big man who can lead a team. He is a beast defensively, but unless he resigns to just mainly being a defender (worked for Mutumbo) his lack of insight will eventually give way to impatience in Houston as well. In my opinion, he is the "biggest" (pun intended) disappointment in the NBA in relation to his talent and potential.

  11. I was in agreeance until you mentioned Tony Romo in the same sentence as Lebron and A. Rod. That's 0.1 steps from blasphemy. Tony Romo has won 1 playoff game and the other 2 each got a ring. Tony Romo got as many accomplishments as Tebow. Of all the football players that have faced criticism and have accomplishments equally comparable to A. Rod and Lebron, you pick Romo. You could have picked Farve, Nammath, Prime Time, or even Keyshawn….but Romo…smdh

    1. If you read it, I was saying they each have faced extreme criticism/pressure to start producing. I think it’s safe to say of all the QBs who have yet to win a ring, Romo takes the harshest criticism. Over, say, Matt Ryan.

      Not comparing accomplishments, comparing the volume of critics.

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