It was a long night at the Lakers’ practice facility on draft day, as the media patiently awaited for the Lakers’ 48th pick, Ryan Kelly, their only pick in the 2013 NBA Draft. As the media watched live alongside Lakers employees, there was a moment of awkwardness when a photo of Dwight Howard popped up on the big screen TV. One Lakers employee turned around and asked, “What’s Dwight’s photo doing up during the draft?” Of course, his photo was supplementing the broadcasters as they discussed the Dallas Mavericks’ draft motives in line with making a pitch for the big man.
That wasn’t the only awkward moment.
At the conclusion of the draft, Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak fielded questions from reporters, and was asked if Dwight or any of his representatives had told him that Howard was in fact unhappy with either Mike D’Antoni or the system. It was a fair question, as ESPN’s Chris Broussard reported this morning that Howard was unhappy with the system. A pause was followed by this statement.
“Umm, no…At the end of a losing season nobody’s happy with anything. I think at first…when Mike got here we tried to run a certain offense with players…and I think it took Mike a month or two to get to know the players on the team and for players to get healthy and to look at the strengths and weaknesses.”
Interesting that moments earlier, Kupchak used the exact, “at the end of a losing season nobody’s happy,” phrase to respond to a question about how he would evaluate Dwight’s feelings about his time in LA. Rumors have now surfaced that Dwight is unlikely to re-sign with the Lakers, as the Houston Rockets and Dallas Mavericks are reportedly at the top of the list. Kupchak even admitted that he probably didn’t know any more about the Dwight rumors and his free agency situation, than those of us in the Lakers facility.
This makes the motivation behind the recent public displays of support and affection (see Dwight Hollywood Blvd. billboards) more and more apparent. Dwight wasn’t happy with how the season ended with the Lakers, and the Lakers aren’t yet receiving any positive hints or pulses of certainty that Dwight will re-sign. In fact, the Lakers have no idea what Dwight will decide, and are hoping that publicly showing their commitment to him, although at the moment one-sided, will impact Dwight’s decision. Kupchak described the billboards as “aggressive” and “proactive,” “without going overboard.”
The problem is, although I understand the intent, and the discomfort of having your storied organization’s future in the hands of a deservedly indecisive young man, there’s something more that worries me about these billboards. The indication that if the Lakers motivation behind the billboards is to show “we care about you,” there probably hasn’t been too much direct communication between Dwight and the Lakers since Lakers exit interviews. Especially, not about Mike D’Antoni. And that, is what worries me more than the billboards themselves.
VIDEO: Mitch Kupchak Explains Plan If Dwight Leaves The Lakers