Dwight Howard announced on Friday that he’s leaving the Los Angeles Lakers for the Houston Rockets. The seven-time all-star center will sign a four-year deal worth close to $88 million when full free agency opens on July 10. The contract could change if the Lakers are willing to work out a sign-and-trade with the Rockets.
Let’s face it: Howard and the Lakers were never a good match. That’s become even more clear over the past week or so. Howard is the type of player who loves to smile and have fun on the basketball court. Winning simply isn’t as much of priority to him if he’s not able to have fun while doing it. ESPN’s Arash Markasi made a great point about this when he noted that Howard “used the word ‘fun’ about 50 times while uttering the word ‘championship’ only once” during this introductory press conference last summer.
The Lakers may be full of drama; they always are. However, their top priority is winning titles. That’s how they have their fun. It’s about raising championship banners and being on top of the American basketball world ever year that makes it worth being a Laker. A player chooses the Lakers if he wants to win a ring while being a part of a legendary organization. The fun comes with being the best on the floor for an entire season.
I’m not saying that Howard doesn’t want to win a title. Instead, I believe that having fun on an everyday basis is more important to him than holding up a trophy at the end of the season. That’s why the Lakers and Howard were never a good match. The two parties have completely different ideologies. Howard wants to have a good time; he wasn’t interested in building a legacy alongside the other franchise greats. The Lakers, on the other hand, are all about championships.
This is why the Lakers and Howard are better off going their separate ways. The team is in for a rough couple of years while it suddenly has to rebuild without the star center, but at least it doesn’t have to deal with a malcontent who is constantly unable to deal with the pressure of playing for the Lakers. Howard can now play for a team that will allow him to relax and have a good time while playing the sport he loves.
The Lakers are at a crossroads with Howard leaving for the Rockets. They have used their status as an elite franchise as a draw for years, but as we saw with Howard, not every player out there has the same priorities. Some players don’t relish the challenge of building a legacy alongside legends such as Jerry West and Wilt Chamberlain. They don’t want the drama that comes with playing in Los Angeles.
Howard is one of those players, and he proved it by leaving an extra $30 million in Southern California to sign with Houston. The Lakers have to adapt to the changes found in today’s NBA star and move forward. They need to learn to work within the confines of a much more restrictive collective bargaining agreement. The Lakers can no longer throw away draft picks like they have in the past. They have just one first round pick between now and 2017, and they need to use it wisely.
The time has come to start fresh, even if it means making some unpopular personnel decisions. It might mean dumping salary for draft picks instead of trading away picks. It could mean letting some popular Lakers go. If the team can do that, then Howard leaving for Houston could actually become the best thing to happen with the franchise since they won their last title.
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