On August 10, 2012, the nightmare of the vetoed Chris Paul trade back in December was officially forgotten by the Los Angeles Lakers after pulling off one of the biggest game-changing trades in NBA history with the acquisition of three-time Defensive Player of the Year Dwight Howard.
After months of speculation and a lot of doubts about the future of the franchise in the hands of Andrew Bynum, the Lakers were able to bring in Howard to play alongside Steve Nash, Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant. The move was considered to be the biggest off-season acquisition of any team in the league and a step in the right direction for the 16-time NBA champion Lakers.
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Immediately after the trade was accepted by the league a giant sigh of relief swept over Lakers fans and the waiting game began with Howard still recovering from back surgery and no timetable set for his return to the floor.
Even though there was talk of Howard possibly sitting out well into the upcoming season, the 26-year-old center was able to make a lightening quick recovery and dawn the purple and gold for the first time in Sunday’s loss to the division rival the Sacramento Kings.
Despite the preseason loss, Howard was happy about his debut at Staples Center and admittedly emotional about wearing a Lakers jersey for the first time in front of the home crowd in Los Angeles according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:
“Emotional,” Howard would say outside his locker Sunday night. “A very humbling experience.”
Once the 2012-13 season is in the books, Howard will officially become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, 2013. This is when things will start to get very interesting in Los Angeles as there will be plenty of teams willing to throw max contract offers in the direction of the league’s best center.
Obviously, if the Lakers experience a successful season in Howard’s first year in Los Angeles, there will be little doubt that he’ll sign with the team long-term. Along with the appeal of playing under the bright lights of the Staples Center, Howard stands to become a very rich man with the Lakers able to offer much more than any other team with a contract potentially worth up to $100 million over five years.
Not only will Howard be at the core of a team filled with talent for at least one more year with Kobe and two with Nash while making a massive amount of money, but the Lakers can go out and pursue another big-name in the summer of 2014 with Gasol and Kobe’s contracts off the books.
Last week, the rumors started to run rampant about LeBron James possibly signing with Lakers if he becomes a free agent. There’s no doubt that the Lakers will make a push to sign the three-time NBA MVP if he becomes available and the temptation to play in Los Angeles alongside Howard might be enough to make it happen.
In the meantime, Howard is fitting in seamlessly in Los Angeles with a potentially bright future ahead as the face of the franchise. As long as he stays healthy and continues to build chemistry with his fellow superstar teammates, the sky is the limit for this team and the league’s best center moving forward.
In case you missed it: Dwight Howard talks about his Lakers debut.
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