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Lakers might only get one shot to win a championship with Dwight Howard

Aug 10, 2012, 5:00 PM EDT

Kobe Bryant Dwight Howard Getty Images

For the majority of NBA teams and their respective fan bases, each season is all about the journey. Only a select few have a real shot at winning a championship, so success is relative and can be judged on everything from individual player improvement to year-over-year win totals, or on whether or not a team simply made the playoffs.

In Los Angeles, for the Lakers, the opposite is true. The journey does not matter; it’s all about the result.

Dwight Howard has finally been added to the star-studded Laker lineup, essentially in exchange for Andrew Bynum. With Howard in the fold alongside Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, and Metta World Peace, L.A. has the best starting five in the league, and it isn’t close. With that great power comes great responsibility, of course, in that anything less than a Lakers championship next season will be considered a disappointment, and rightfully so.

Now, championship-or-bust isn’t exactly a fun way to go through an entire season — just ask the 2011 Miami Heat about that. The Lakers may, however, have to deal with something that LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh didn’t in that first season together in Miami: the added pressure of having to win a title in their very first season together, if they want to stay together.

Howard is an unrestricted free agent after next season, and will sign nothing less than a max contract once he hits the open market. While the rules of the new collective bargaining agreement would allow him to net in the neighborhood of $30 million more over the life of his next deal if he stayed in L.A., money may not be everything to a player who already will have over $100 million in career earnings — even before we count endorsements — when the time comes for him to decide where he’ll play next. Additionally, let’s not forget that Howard is recovering from back surgery, and we have yet to see how quickly he may or may not return to form following his rehabilitation.

Besides the injury issue and the fact that Dwight can simply up and leave at the end of the season if he feels like it, the Lakers may think very carefully about wanting him back at the price he’ll command if he can’t mesh with the rest of the roster, pulls any of the bad teammate routine we saw from him last year in Orlando, or ends up being less than 100 percent of the player we’ve seen him be in the past.

While it seems likely that the Lakers would try to keep Howard in order to have a star in Los Angeles to build around once Bryant retires, nothing is guaranteed there because L.A. has legitimate salary concerns after next season. In 2014, Bryant is slated to make over $30 million, and Gasol will be in the last year of a deal that will pay him greater than $19 million. If Gasol doesn’t bounce back from a disappointing season, it’s reasonable to believe that the Lakers may look to move that expiring contract to cut payroll and avoid having to pay him big dollars in free agency.

All of this is to say that for the Lakers, the time is now. The acquisitions of Howard and Nash have put the team in the enviable spot of being one of the favorites to take home the title. And while the team’s journey should certainly be compelling, if the end result is anything less than a 17th NBA championship, it may be the only chance given to the team’s core to win it as currently constructed.

  1. zblott - Aug 10, 2012 at 5:14 PM

    They may only have 1 year for an easy title, but they still earn an A+ for the trade. How did the other 3 teams grade out?

    http://www.behindthebasket.com/btb/2012/8/10/the-dwight-howard-trade-grading-each-team.html

  2. ningenito78 - Aug 10, 2012 at 5:16 PM

    All this bandwagon jumping because the Lakers got Howard is funny. The Lakers can’t defend the Thunder. Not even close. So all the guarantees I keep hearing of the Lakers-Heat Finals next year slow down. I would still take the Thunder in a 7 game series.

    • jimmymarlinsfan - Aug 10, 2012 at 5:31 PM

      Agreed

      I mean there is no mystery that the lakers should score a lot of points but aging vets are another year older and their bench is bare bones right now(but then again im not a Jamison fan at this point in his career really)

      LeBron is still the best player in the world and there is absolutely no guarantee of beating what will be an even tougher thunder team next year

      Never mind the fact that Dwight is dealing with a back issue and can’t hit free throws which makes him an offensive liability at the end of games…honesty? The lakers will rue the day they were able to keep Pau because they probably could have used the return to more evenly fill out the roster

      • dls612 - Aug 10, 2012 at 9:09 PM

        You’re on point, not to mention the faster pgs that will exploit Nash defense. Westbrook is absolutely gonna kill Nash going to the basket. And as soon as Howard help out the shooters Will be ready! It won’t be easy!

    • saint1997 - Aug 10, 2012 at 9:20 PM

      You shouldn’t have posted that man. True (it is) or not you are going to cop some dislikes from Laker bandwagon people! I don’t get the people going for bandwagon teams. As the article says anything but a championship is a disappointment and that just is not fun. It means nothing when you win cos that is expected and just depresses you when you lose!

  3. mikejd12 - Aug 10, 2012 at 5:25 PM

    Thunder are better and deeper

    • Mr. Wright 212 - Aug 10, 2012 at 6:13 PM

      After Harden’s showing in the Finals? LMFAO

      • madnova - Aug 10, 2012 at 6:15 PM

        Yep…LeBron’s showing against Dallas really held him back this season.

  4. doctorfootball - Aug 10, 2012 at 5:33 PM

    If Howard stays withthe Lakers beyond this year, then money if the major factor. Kobe is getting old. Nash is already old. Pau is getting up there in years. The Lakers are in “win now!” mode, because they wont be contenders after this year. Howard should take off after this year.

  5. ksctychiefs - Aug 10, 2012 at 5:35 PM

    good riddance dh,don’t let the door hit you on the way out!!…….dh gets one of he best nba coaches(svg)fired,gets the run of the mill,totally torches orlando,and then leaves town!!……we would have been way better off keeping svg and 12 green rookies, and letting dh go in the first place…….granted it was a great run in orlando with dh,but now he leaves town totally burning down the arena…..it will probably take 4-5 yrs now for us,the magic,to recover….good luck with that(dh) lakers!!……

  6. doctorfootball - Aug 10, 2012 at 5:39 PM

    Oh, and let’s not forget that the Thunder have a guy who probably plays Howard better than anyone in Perkins.

    • teambringitstrong - Aug 10, 2012 at 5:48 PM

      Yeah that was when Howard was with Orlando! Who else did they have as an option on that front line? Please dig below the surface before you pronounce your research complete!

      • madnova - Aug 10, 2012 at 6:07 PM

        When you are talking about guarding one on one, it really doesn’t matter that the Lakers have another option, in this case Gasol. What matters is that Perkins is able to push Howard away from his effective spots, and not give up position to him, rendering him less effective. When it gets to Gasol, that’ll be on Collison and Ibaka.

        The big thing will be how Brown chooses to use Howard. If he constantly tries feeding him in the post like the Lakers did with Bynum last season, allowing him to showcase his “moves”, that will be a fail.

        It’s a good thing they are trying to bring in some of the Princeton offense, because they’ll be best served to keep the ball moving.

        Buss should probably try to steal away the Sun’s training staff, as well. A man that big with back problems, plus an aging Nash and even Kobe…It will be impressive if they are all available together for 75% of the games.

        But back to the other option while he was in Orlando question…Last season, Ryan Anderson.Before that, Gortat and Rashard Lewis. Research done.

      • scalfor3 - Aug 10, 2012 at 6:09 PM

        as if perk would guard anyone else on the lakers. doctorfootballs point was that the thunder are able to match up with howard better than most. he’s right.

      • 00maltliquor - Aug 11, 2012 at 1:56 AM

        (This isn’t a response to you teambringitstrong, it’s to the other two guys who responded to you underneath who for some reason don’t have a respond button underneath.)

        Yeah, Perkins is soooo good that the Thunder are already stockpilling potential replacements for when they amnesty his worthless ass so they can re-sign Harden or Ibaka or both.

        #11 pick Cole Aldrich (who will be a serviciable C in the league givien the chance once he’s traded eventually), just drafted Perry Jones III, newly signed Hasheem Thabeet (don’t laugh!! Okay, hahaha!), and former 1st round project Daniel Orton! Remember…

        YOU HEARD IT HERE FIRST!!!!!!

  7. rushbacker - Aug 10, 2012 at 5:44 PM

    Oh, please. There’s exactly zero percent chance Howard doesn’t sign with the Lakers long term. We all knew how this thing was going to end months ago, and it’s a complete waste of time to try to conjure up some false drama over whether he’ll re-sign or not. Just stop.

    • jimeejohnson - Aug 10, 2012 at 5:57 PM

      I think you’re lying, unless Dwight prefers the California avocado to that watery excuse for one in Florida.

  8. ohnothatguy - Aug 10, 2012 at 5:49 PM

    I would love to see a lakers-heat final!! Love to see if the refs will give lebron all the calls again, knowing kobe is on the other team. Everyone knows the lakers get all the calls at home, but sterns golden boy lebron will be there too. Love to see how that plays out. That would be one of the most anticipated finals but probably the worst one ever to watch bc the refs wouldnt know what to do.

  9. chargersallday17 - Aug 10, 2012 at 5:51 PM

    Hell ya lakers all day baby we also sigh jodie meeks to back kobe up!!!! LAKERS DONT REBUILD WE RELOAD!!!! Laker fan since 1990!!!!

  10. sellahh - Aug 10, 2012 at 5:59 PM

    “While the rules of the new collective bargaining agreement would allow him to net in the neighborhood of $30 million more over the life of his next deal if he stayed in L.A., money may not be everything to a player who already will have over $100 million in career earnings — even before we count endorsements — when the time comes for him to decide where he’ll play next.”
    I love how the money argument is being brought up every time Dwight’s extension is being discussed. He’s probably spent those 100 million dollars already as most of you, me not excluded, would have done. So money is a huge, huge factor. After all, championships are what measure a bball player, but it’s their work… in the first place

  11. isujames - Aug 10, 2012 at 5:59 PM

    1 shot lol,lol,lol+hahahahahahahaha, D Howard “will not” resign with LA after a year of playing with the greatest ball hog of all time.

    • sellahh - Aug 10, 2012 at 6:01 PM

      You should visit the toilet cause poo is on its way, it seems the way you’re hating.

  12. kenyanteg123 - Aug 10, 2012 at 6:05 PM

    BasedGod f*cked my b*tch.

  13. isujames - Aug 10, 2012 at 6:16 PM

    Correction, the lakers don’t have the best starting five, they have a formidable starting five.If this was 2008 or 2009 and they had this lineup that could be said but on the contrary its not.I still don’t believe they will come out of the west.Lets not forget D Howard can’t make free throws and the Thunder do have H. Thabet and K Perkins Laker fools.

    • madnova - Aug 10, 2012 at 6:31 PM

      Well, I was with you until you said Thabeet. Mention Collison, Cole Aldrige, anyone else, and I’d say here, here!

      But Thabeet?

      I am intrigued to see if Nash defends Harden or Westbrook when the Lakers and Thunder play, though. That should be fun to watch.

  14. ranoversquarells - Aug 10, 2012 at 6:31 PM

    As a Celtic fan, it pains me to think about the prospect of having to pick between rooting for the Lakers or Heat should they meet in the finals …

    • madnova - Aug 10, 2012 at 6:32 PM

      Just think, if the Celtics play the Lakers in the Finals, they made the forward thinking move of signing the OTHER guy that gives Howard fits- Jason Collins.

  15. rickyspanish - Aug 10, 2012 at 6:31 PM

    Already with this garbage? Sports media in its entirety has become way too predictable. Way to be progressive.

  16. chargersallday17 - Aug 10, 2012 at 6:37 PM

    HELL YA GOO LAKERS!!!!

  17. chadinkc30 - Aug 10, 2012 at 6:38 PM

    I sense a lot of hate on here & no reality! I’m just gonna put it this way….the Lakers could & should of beat OKC last season with no Howard, no Nash, no Antawn Jamison(averaged 18 pts a game last year), no Jodie Meeks, and you people really believe they shouldn’t be able to beat the Thunder??? Do you watch basketball? Nash & Howard on pick and roll should be the best pick and roll combo in the history of basketball. Howard will cover up Gasols softness, replace Bynums unathletic, lanky ass, and cover up Nash’s lack of defense up top

  18. frn27 - Aug 10, 2012 at 6:40 PM

    The Lakers dropped a couple games to the Thunder in the playoffs because they couldn’t close out games. It’s not like they were blown out. Now they just got an extra push defensively from Howard as well as more athletic in rotations and pick and rolls. Don’t forget Nash who is a huge upgrade from Sessions in ball distribution, play making and basketball IQ. Everyone is screaming how old Nash is but its production that matters and his production last year still places him among the most elite PGs in the league regardless of age. The Lakers were formidable opponents for the Thunder last season but always came up short. Add Nash, Howard, Jamison and Meeks and they are as good if not better than OKC.

  19. chadinkc30 - Aug 10, 2012 at 6:44 PM

    I DON’T WANT TO HEAR ABOUT FREE THROW SHOOTING, DIDN’T STOP SHAQ WINNING RINGS, ESPECIALLY IF YOU HAVE BRYANT TO GIVE THE BALL TO IN THE FOURTH & ALSO MAKE FREE THROWS. NASH IS ALSO ONE OF THE BEST FREE THROW SHOOTERS IN HISTORY OF NBA!

    • madnova - Aug 10, 2012 at 6:48 PM

      That’s awesome, because Howard is just as good of a passer as Shaq was.

      • Kurt Helin - Aug 12, 2012 at 9:16 PM

        No, he’s not. Shaq was a very underrated passer.

  20. fordmandalay - Aug 10, 2012 at 7:25 PM

    Meaningless, pointless speculation thought up to fill a column. OMG what if an asteroid hits tomorrow?? Then the Lakers have missed ALL chances for a title!!

  21. lmvs2012 - Aug 10, 2012 at 7:29 PM

    I heard howard wont play till mid dec.? Is that true?

  22. BigBeachBall - Aug 10, 2012 at 8:00 PM

    the youngest starter for the Lakers is 47 years old….

    • tsi431 - Aug 10, 2012 at 10:32 PM

      Actually they have 7 players 25 and under, before this trade and only two players over 35 (Nash and Jamison). Kobe is only 33, but he has been in the league for a very long time.

    • 00maltliquor - Aug 11, 2012 at 2:04 AM

      Hahaha. That’s a good one bro. And the youngest overall team to win a championship in the last decade and a half if not more was a team with the average age of 25-26 right??

  23. isujames - Aug 10, 2012 at 8:12 PM

    D Howard told TMZ it wasn’t his decision to come to LA LA LAND.I personally would have a say so when it comes to where I will or won’t play/stay.

  24. proballerslounge - Aug 11, 2012 at 3:02 AM

    http://proballerslounge.wordpress.com/2012/08/11/as-history-repeats-itself-can-dwight-howard-live-up-to-shaqs-legacy/

    Dwight Howard and Shaq in the link above

  25. cambodianbreastmilk - Aug 11, 2012 at 6:38 AM

    I’m still trying to figure out who the Lakers sub when these guys need a break. They have no bench or depth and that’s gonna hurt them. Go Thunder!

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