I never thought I’d write about what the Lakers would do without Dwight Howard. While everyone believed that he was Houston bound, privately I believed that he would see the light and return to the franchise that would give him the best chance of winning a championship.
There was a moment on Friday that I believed the light bulb turned on, that he’d realized that the Lakers were right for him and that he’d return. That he would understand that he was next in line. He would follow Mikan, Chamberlain, Abdul-Jabbar and O’Neal. Somebody schooled him on the history of the Lakers and he finally understood that there was no place better, regardless of the sales pitch, for him to play basketball.
I’ve had 24 hours to digest the information that Dwight didn’t understand anything I outlined, and was as naive and short-sided as everyone made him out to be. That that he really did believe that the Rockets gave him the best chance to win.
He wanted to become the focal point of an offense, but he won’t get that in Houston. So why didn’t he go to Dallas? Dallas was the one place along with Atlanta that would’ve catered everything around him. He would’ve been the man, but he decided that he would take his talents to Houston. Or as Shaq said, “that tiny town”.
The Lakers are in a position that few would’ve imagined. They’ll have over $50 million in cap space in 2014. But the question remains, what do they do next year? Is it a situation where they intentionally try to lose, or do they stay competitive and fight for a playoff spot?
For the Lakers and Laker fans, not winning is kryptonite. The very idea of tanking a season for a draft pick isn’t possible to dream about, but it’s a decision worth entertaining.
While the Steve Nash trade saw the Lakers lose draft picks this season and in 2015, the Lakers have an opportunity next season to acquire a player that could have an immediate impact on the team.
Now, acquiring this player would require Kobe Bryant to sit out the season and the Lakers to field a less than competitive team, but that option seems remote. Just minutes after Howard announced his decision to go to Houston, Kobe Instagramed a picture of him and Pau Gasol as a way to invigorate the fan base.
The most likely scenario for the Lakers is to sign a couple players: Nick Young, Elton Brand, Lamar Odom to name a few, and try to stay competitive for the time being. However, would “tanking” a season be more beneficial to the team? I mean, getting a top-5 pick in next year’s draft would mean they’d get an instant franchise player to succeed Kobe once he’s done playing.
Amnestying Metta World Peace would save the franchise close to $19 million in terms of salary for next season and the tax bill that Jim Buss doesn’t want to pay.
It almost seems impossible to believe that the Lakers would throw away a season, especially with Kobe on the back end of his career, but it might be the best decision in the long run.
Mitch Kupchak is arguably the best general manager in the game, and with a clean slate in 2014 after getting an impact player like Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker or Julius Randle in the 2014 draft, the Lakers would competitive in the present and for future years.
Losing a season is a tough thing to come to grips with, but given the current payroll and Western Conference landscape, re-building for a year might be what’s better for Kobe and company in the long run.
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