The Los Angeles Lakers are getting older by the minute. Actually, all of us are getting older by the minute but most of us will still be around after the “Lakers’ championship window” has been closed and shut (only to re-open again - soon, if the Lakers follow past history). In order to win the NBA championship, a team needs a lot of factors to go right. If you don’t believe that, you didn’t watch the past series with Miami and San Antonio.
The first of those factors, unquestionably, is the right roster. Talent is, and has always been, #1 because without it, you’re doomed. But a highly talented roster assures no more than a lot of regular season victories. More is needed, such as great coaching, the right match ups in the playoffs, staying healthy and, as anyone who’s ever won will tell you, a good deal of luck. Still another ingredient is chemistry which might be just as important a piece as any of the others in the quest to win it all. And that is why Dwight Howard won’t return to the Lakers.
Sure, the Lakers are making the final push, complete with all the Hollywood BS that no one else can match - posters, weather, ability to promote him for endorsements and make him a TV star. That stuff appeals more to a Blake Griffin (does it ever!) than it does to a Dwight Howard. He seems to be a highly sensitive player, an open book sort, who wants desperately to be liked. That type of personality might be the antithesis of what is necessary to thrive in “media-difficult” NBA cities such as New York (including Brooklyn), Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago and LA.
Last year there were stories (not to be referred to as rumors any longer) that Dwight had a rough time dealing with criticism from one of his teammates. Keep in mind, this was a guy who thought Stan Van Gundy was tough to take. The last time we checked, Stan Van Gundy and Kobe Bryant are light years apart. A more apt comparison would be Kobe and Michael. For guys who are sensitive, playing with Kobe (or MJ for that matter) is worse than playing against them - because they’re on your ass everyday. For a guy who thinks knowing how many “baby mommas” he has is none of anyone’s business, dealing with the LA media, hearing it from one of the greatest to ever lace ‘em up and being a whipping boy for the fans is probably more than he wants to handle.
The team, and city, most likely to fit Howard’s personality and skills would be Houston. He’s already worked with Hakeem and you know the Rockets are going to play that card - as well they should. They’ll also, wisely, push Kevin McHale. While he has yet to win a championship with a great post player, he can certainly boast of winning one (or more) as a great post player. As far as the salary part goes, I admit to not understanding the new CBA but if what I hear is correct, the Lakers can offer him a max contract of $118M for five years, while the Rockets can offer (I hesitate to use the word only) $88M for four years. My numbers come out to $23.6M/year for five years in LA and $22M/year for four years in Houston. If the tax in California is 13%, he’d clear $20.532M each year. Texas has no state tax. All that for a guy who’s a liability at crunch time because he’s such a horrible free throw shooter.
ESPN LA’s Dave McMenamin claims the big fella will re-sign with the Lakers and he knows a helluva lot more than I do. I’m still taking the other side. As long as Phil Jackson doesn’t enter the party. Then:
“All bets are off.”