I guess we will just dive right in. Dwight Howard has found himself in the headlines seemingly every two weeks since his fallout with former coach Stan Van Gundy back in Orlando. Despite having played for two different teams and four head coaches in the last two years, the media’s mantra for him remains the same: “Will he stay, or will he go?”
Howard is a great basketball player, no doubt. He is one of few legitimate big man centers currently in the league that plays the position the way it is played best. His value is apparent to many clubs in the NBA which is evidenced by the demand for him when he was in Orlando and this last month when he was a free agent. He was sent to Los Angeles to be the face of the Lakers organization. Many sources reported to ESPN that Dwight had been assured by the Lakers brass that he was going to be the future of the franchise. Dwight responded that he could not see himself playing for the Lakers and being their future if Kobe stayed past the 2013-2014 season.
The amount of sports blasphemy from that statement is absolutely mind-blowing. I do not need to list the reasons why Kobe pretty much has free reign on when he wants to call it quits on the Lakers organization. He has been the face (or at least one of the faces) of the franchise since 2001 and has firmly planted himself in Laker lore for the rest of time. But Dwight Howard just could not bear to be the 1b to Kobe’s 1a.
Countless times in sports history there have been instances where the up-and-comer has to wait his turn while the fan-favorite, franchise player rides off into the sunset. Mickey Mantle had to wait for Joe DiMaggio, Aaron Rodgers waited very patiently for Favre to step aside (forced aside, really), even Kobe had to wait while Shaq left the Lakers to truly be their poster boy. But Dwight seems to believe that sort of thing is below him.
Kobe Bryant scored 27 PPG last season along with six assists per game and about six rebounds per game. This last year for him was better than the average of his last five seasons in all three of those categories. How can you expect a man to retire after a season where he played better than the previous five years? Especially when it comes to an institution like Kobe Bryant? If Kobe retires after next year, the Lakers likely will not contend for a ring for quite some time even if Dwight stayed. They have no one to pick up the production that Kobe brings. So that would have left Dwight Howard with an aging trio of Gasol, Nash and Jamison along with a few parts like Farmar, Hill, and Artest. That squad a championship team does not make.
So good luck Dwight on the Rockets. I hesitate to wonder what it will be like in three years when he is faced with the opt-out clause. Perhaps he will be upset that he has to share the spotlight with James Harden (who has a better claim to the franchise player throne). Maybe he will accuse Jeremy Lin of favoring Harden when it comes to assists. Time changes all things, but something tells me Dwight has not changed at all.