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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. omniusprime - Aug 11, 2012 at 10:05 AM

    Time is of essence for the Lakers and Kobe to win some more championships, they aren’t getting any younger. Nash and Howard should be hungry for rings and know that Kobe and the Lakers are their best bets to ever win some. The only fly in the ointment for the Lakers is Clueless Clown Brown, we can only hope this dim bulb can put the pieces together and figure out an offense for the whole team. All that’s needed now is to get rid of Steve Flake and get a better point guard for defense to keep ancient Nash from blowing it for the Lakers.

    • madnova - Aug 11, 2012 at 3:52 PM

      The Lakers COULD trade Blake and Pau to the Timberwolves for Brandon Roy, Derrick Williams, Malcolm Lee, and Dante Cunningham.

      Then Kahn’s vision of blinding opposing teams with paleness would be complete….

  2. manchestermiracle - Aug 11, 2012 at 11:07 AM

    The Lakers have always been about winning it all THIS season. That’s worked out fairly well, to the tune of 16 championships. Love reading articles and comments questioning the judgment of the Lakers’ front office. As though giving your fan base high expectations of a title every year is somehow a bad thing. There are 20 or so other NBA teams with fans who can only wish the execs running those clubs could do the same. Well, I’ve spent enough time on childish entertainment here, time to go get some real work done. Thanks for the laughs!

    • madnova - Aug 11, 2012 at 3:52 PM

      Man, I guess some people can imagine slights anywhere….

  3. hconspiracy - Aug 12, 2012 at 1:54 AM

    Total madness…..Lakers best starting five!!!!!!! Who are they kidding…..Kobe Bryant’s skill level is clearly starting to diminish, Nash is a great acquisition or would of been 5 years ago….Westbrook will blow him off the court# Why why !!!!! Would you let Bynum go? Howard ain’t all that and it will be interesting to see how effective he is on his return and in a new system…..anyone notice Pau at the Olympics? Performances could best be described as sub par…..possible indication for the year ahead…..and we all know the Lakers are desperate to match the CELTICS haul of titles…..17

  4. delusionalcardsfan - Aug 12, 2012 at 2:14 AM

    GO SUNS! :/

  5. packhawk04 - Aug 12, 2012 at 11:08 AM

    I dont think its so far fetched that he leaves. If money was the biggest factor, i have to believe hed still be in orlando. If they dont win the title this year, hes going to see what we all do. Bryant getting up there, gasol likely traded for not much, who knows with nash. He may see hes going to end up in the same situation with orlando if he stays there.

  6. ocgunslinger - Aug 12, 2012 at 6:46 PM

    It’s the Lakers Dude. Great team in a great market with lot’s of endorsement deals and other opportunities available which acts as a magnet for future free agents. As someone else noted, the Lakers are rarely in a rebuild mode but usually in reload mode. The only thing “unfair” is the Laker front office is vastly superior to most of the teams. Celtics, Spurs and Heat come to mind of similar management skills. Compare to the clowns running the Knicks for example.

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