Dwight Howard has escaped all the talk surrounding his pending free agency, spending last week at Lake Tahoe where he fished, rode dune buggies and hung out in a cabin. It sure beats laboring through a surgically repaired back and partially torn labrum in his right shoulder. Or hearing scrutiny from Kobe Bryant and the media alike. Or fighting through persisting double teams. Or missing free throws.
But just like it us for all of us when we see a huge inbox of unread emails the day we return from work, Howard will have to tackle one unsettling question. Where he will play next season?
A source familiar with Howard’s thought process told me last week that he’s currently considering the Lakers, the Dallas Mavericks, Houston Rockets, Atlanta Hawks and Golden State Warriors. But knowing that a more than a month awaits before he becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1, that list could change. Whether Howard narrows the list or keeps adding on potential suitors remains to be seen. But we at least have a general idea on where Howard might end up.
Pros: It seems downright offensive the Lakers would need to tick off reasons to convince Howard to stay. After all, they’re the keeper of 16 NBA championships, some of the all-time greatest NBA players (Magic, West, Kobe) and centers (Mikan, Wilt, Kareem, Shaq) and they’re in the land of perfect sunny skies, beaches and Hollywood.
So even if Howard’s first season with the Lakers consisted of injuries (back, shoulder), philosophical and personality clashes (Kobe Bryant, Mike D’Antoni) and scrutiny (media and teammates alike), there’s plenty that should appeal to Howard. The Lakers are setting him up to be the franchise’s next cornerstone along with a five-year, $118 million price tag no other team can match. Howard’s hope to tap into the entertainment industry will only help if he wears purple and gold. And even if there’s uncertainty in the post Jerry Buss era and punitive luxury taxes on the rise, the Lakers are maintaining they’ll still spend the necessary goods to ensure championship success.
Cons: Forget about the Lakers’ tradition, the money and the endless scrutiny Howard would receive if he left two teams in two consecutive seasons. There’s very little the Lakers showed this season that should appeal to Howard.
They passed up Phil Jackson for Mike D’Antoni, who both rarely featured Howard enough inside and had the patience to understand Howard’s physical limitations. The Lakers field an aging roster, making it both impossible for the Lakers to keep up with older teams and for giving Howard the necessary defensive support. And with the late Jerry Buss’ passing, the Lakers haven’t showed any clarity whether the partnership between Jim Buss (overseing player personnel) and Jeanie Buss (overseeing business operations) could carry the same success that ensured the Lakers winning 10 of their 16 NBA championships with their father running the show.