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Lakers need to answer big questions: Is Howard the future? Can he co-exist with D’Antoni?

Jan 24, 2013, 3:55 PM EDT

Los Angeles Lakers head coach D'Antoni smiles with Gasol, Bryant and Howard during their NBA basketball game against Brooklyn Nets, as he makes his game coaching debut for Lakers in Los Angeles Reuters

The Lakers are not making the playoffs.

Some in Los Angeles probably think there is still a shot, but most of them also think their screenplay is just about to get picked up by a studio with Hugh Jackman attached to it. That and the Lakers in the postseason have about the same chance of happening.

With the trade deadline coming up in less than a month (Feb. 21), the temptation might be for the Lakers to make a move to bolster the team this season. They shouldn’t. Write this year off. They have to think long term. And I think the ever patient Mitch Kupchak or even Jim Buss are doing just that.

But that means they have some serious questions to answer about what kind of team this is going to be and whose team it is going to be. Any and all moves need to be based on the answers to these questions and to bring both the roster and coaching staff in alignment with these answers”

• What is the Lakers identity? Post players and defense? Up-tempo pick-and-roll heavy? Who are they?

• Can Los Angeles re-sign Dwight Howard and keep him as the future anchor of the franchise going forward?

• Can Howard co-exist with Mike D’Antoni in his system?

The Lakers want to keep Howard and sign him to a max deal this summer — even in an off year coming off back surgery he is as good as any big in the league. And he’s going to get back to his old self (or close to it) at some point. He is absolutely still a guy you anchor a franchise around. The Lakers are Kobe Bryant‘s team right now, but they can be Howard’s in a couple years.

On the other side of that equation, Howard, following his ugly exit from Orlando, isn’t doing anything this season to repair that damaged reputation. Packing up and becoming a free agent again certainly doesn’t help that. He gets more money in Los Angeles and he can win there, he’s likely going to stay.

But can he coexist with Mike D’Antoni?

And with that, how committed are the Lakers to D’Antoni? And to Steve Nash? Because if they truly are committed them, the Lakers need to make a lot of changes to the roster to get more athletic, to get younger and faster. That likely means a Pau Gasol trade at least. And they have to convince Howard to run a lot of pick-and-roll — and even then does he fit or just clog the lane. Howard is not a classic D’Antoni player in the least.

But if Howard and D’Antoni can’t fit together, which side are the Lakers more committed to?

Adrain Wojnarowski reports at Yahoo that Howard is likely to re-sign in Los Angeles, but it is D’Antoni that gives Howard pause. And that D’Antoni has never been Howard’s biggest fan.

Frankly, in a star player vs. coach situation the player almost always wins because there just are not many of them in the NBA. There are maybe 10 guys who are true NBA franchise anchor players and Howard is one — you don’t trade him and you build around him with a system that fits.

There are a whole lot of unanswered questions in this post because there are a whole lot of unanswered questions about the Lakers. And there are many, many more but they are all offshoots of the big unanswered questions.

You can’t just slap a bunch of superstars together and call it a team, you need an identity to build toward. We don’t know what that identity is for the Lakers.

The Lakers need to go into the trade deadline and the summer thinking about next season and what they want the team to look like. You can’t build a skyscraper without a blueprint and right now the Lakers don’t seen to have one, just a lot of parts laying around the site waiting to be put together. Someone needs to be the architect.

  1. bucrightoff - Jan 24, 2013 at 4:04 PM

    The most obvious answer is not even mentioned: Trade Kobe Bryant. Yes, Laker fans will be totally against it (the same Laker fans who booed him when he asked for a trade?), but it makes too much sense not to happen. He is without a doubt the biggest reason for their downfall this season (what’s their record now, something like 5-21 when Kobe takes 25+shots?). He’s a liability on defense now, and he’s primary concern appears to be the scoring record and not winning a ring. Dumping him also significantly increases the chances you keep Dwight Howard to avoid that trade being the worst disaster ever (we trade Andrew Bynum for Earl Clark…awesome)

    So trade him, fix your team almost immediately because you’ll get a good return, get out of cap hell next season, and start planning for the next generation of the Lakers. But at present, the Lakers are destined to be California’s third best team for the foreseable future.

    • sportsnut101 - Jan 24, 2013 at 4:32 PM

      I would trade Kobe so fast. But he has no trade clause honestly I would trade Kobe rather then let him just finish out his career. If u can trade shaq u can trade Kobe. But I think lakers want the cap room in 2014 But Howard needs way more touches then 6 a game for sure. I’m enjoying the lakers suffer cry n moan

      Espn only covers lakers n pats lol. Like no other nba team is losing ever heard of a team called the bobcats n wizards. I don’t even watch espn games. They put the same teams on again n again I don’t need to see the mavs again gees. I understand fans wanna see the stars but u want a strong brand not a few great stores

    • alildusty - Jan 24, 2013 at 4:44 PM

      trade him for the entire bobcats franchise and a bag of peanuts?

      The reason why trading Kobe is not mentioned is because it CAN’T BE DONE. He’s one of the only players still with a no trade clause. Plus he’s making 27 million a year. Plus he is not about to change his legacy by putting on anything but Gold and Purple.

      One thing I don’t understand is why howard can’t play the amare role in the steve nash pick and roll? amare did not have a good jumper but was a freak of an athlete. Howard needs to go back and watch some old suns game tape and practice his pick, roll, 1-2 dribble dunk.

      • bucrightoff - Jan 24, 2013 at 5:14 PM

        I actually think Kobe would take a trade. I think he can see at present how little chance this Lakers team has of winning anything other than the lottery. Especially if you can trade him East where he can beat up the much weaker conference.

        As to his Lakers legacy, he will never break into the Lakers big 3 (Magic, West, Kareem or Wilt depending on your preference). Besides, Laker fans don’t judge his legacy, cause those people are now Clipper fans anyways.

      • mytthor - Jan 24, 2013 at 10:02 PM

        You don’t know what you’re talking about. Kobe is second only to Magic among Laker fans when it comes to legacy.

      • mytthor - Jan 24, 2013 at 10:03 PM

        Amare actually did have a real solid jumper out to 18-20 feet.

      • skids003 - Jan 25, 2013 at 12:26 PM

        The great Kobe can’t even get them to the playoffs? Unbelievable, he’s so wonderful I don’t see how he couldn;t make this happen. The world is coming to an end.

        He’s the problem. Short of trading for two great offensive rebounders, nothing will help this team.

    • eventhorizon04 - Jan 24, 2013 at 5:12 PM

      “The most obvious answer is not even mentioned: Trade Kobe Bryant.”
      It’s not mentioned because it’s incorrect.

      Kobe is untradeable because
      1. His contract contains a no-trade clause and Kobe is very unlikely to want to leave the Lakers.
      2. He’s on the decline, so not too many teams will want him at this point.
      3. He’s the highest paid player by far in the NBA, which makes him unaffordable for most NBA teams.

      So everything in your comment is wrong – the plan is unworkable and the return will not be good.

    • dhkr - Jan 24, 2013 at 6:54 PM

      So many idiots on this website.. Kobe = no trade clause. In other words, he CANNOT be traded. Plus, which team in the league can afford to pay a player 28 million and 29+ mil for two more following seasons? If he were to be amnestied, that’s one thing. But we all know that’s not gonna happen.

    • dhkr - Jan 24, 2013 at 6:55 PM

      In what world do you live in if “no-trade clause” is the most obvious answer?

    • chargerdillon - Jan 24, 2013 at 9:35 PM

      agree with you 100% kobe should be traded, that being said, can’t happen with a no trade clause

      I love Kobe, i have every rookie card ever made of him, he’s the only jersey i wear, but he’s the problem and he needs to go.

      I cannot continue to watch these close games go into the 4th quarter only to be lost by his aging legs on defense and his hairtrigger doublecovered 3pointers on offense. It’s like a punchdrunk boxer who wants to get back into the ring. D’Antoni is not a coach to tell Kobe not to take a shot. Had they brought in Phil, they’d be a playoff contender in a triangle system Kobe is a master of more like an assistant coach on the court in that offense, but this……this is a mess and Kobe is making a bigger mess. Dwight is 100% right, FEED THE DOG

    • loungefly74 - Jan 24, 2013 at 11:07 PM

      1) kobe has a no trade clause
      2) as mentioned in a recent article, kobe ‘s value to the team far outweighs his salary. the NBA is a business
      3) yes, his shot selection is bad…but the offense is not the problem (4th in the league) BUT
      4) the poor defense should be blamed on everyone

    • badintent - Jan 25, 2013 at 1:39 AM

      Soon to be fourth. Cousins is a monster and will break Howard’s other shoulder.

  2. spthegr8 - Jan 24, 2013 at 4:05 PM

    ENOUGH with the 30 Laker post a day and I am a DIE HARD laker fan. Use some of this time and talk about some teams that deserve some publicity. Like the Bulls winning with out D rose or the Warrior’s coming out of nowhere. I like too hear about my team ( even though we SUCK ) but I am a fan of the game first. Talk about beating a dead horse. JUST SAYING!!!!!!

    • aqzi - Jan 24, 2013 at 7:57 PM

      I get where you’re coming from, but a couple of teams unexpectedly do well every season. How often does the team with the second best odds of winning the championship in the beginning of the season not even make the playoffs?

      • spthegr8 - Jan 24, 2013 at 8:44 PM

        @aqzi
        Got me there. Good point!!! What a TRAIN WRECK!!!

    • southbeachtalent - Jan 24, 2013 at 8:41 PM

      They give us what we want, look at the reply count.

  3. 32magicman - Jan 24, 2013 at 4:33 PM

    Not sure but i think Bryant has a no-trade clause in his contract.

    • eventhorizon04 - Jan 24, 2013 at 5:14 PM

      Yes, he does.
      The list of players with a no-trade clause are Kobe Bryant, Dirk Nowitzki, Kevin Garnett, and Tim Duncan. Only those 4.

      Ray Allen had the option of signing with Boston with a no-trade clause, but he opted for Miami.

  4. caeser12 - Jan 24, 2013 at 4:50 PM

    Now that they’ve completed the airing of the grievances who’s going to compete in the feats of strength?

    This has been the best Festivus ever!

  5. dalucks - Jan 24, 2013 at 4:54 PM

    As Sugar Ray Richardson once said “ship be sinking.”
    That perfectly describes the Lakers season.

    • limonadamas - Jan 25, 2013 at 1:06 AM

      I believe that’s MICHAEL Ray Richardson. I agree with the sentiment though.

  6. cosanostra71 - Jan 24, 2013 at 5:08 PM

    Building a bench would be a nice start.

  7. emosnar - Jan 24, 2013 at 5:40 PM

    Its crazy how Laker land got turn over on their heads thanks to non other than MAGIC JOHNSON. Yes, this cat came out demanding they fire Miek Brown after what five games? At least the defense would still around if he was still the coach. they didnt even let the guy get his feet wet. A shorten season his first year then Magic opens his mouth and know we got no-D’Antoni. Kobe is being all super Zen nice and doesnt want to say anything but truth be told he doesnt have a clue on what to do. They had an identity and that was defense. It and the offense would have only got better this season not gone down hill with no-D’Antoni. I would have at leat gave Brown until All-star break. Buss Jr/ and Magic are running this org to the ground. Time for Magic to come coach again and see if he learned anything. Trade Kobe/Artest to Pacers for Granger, Stephenson and a first round pick. Legggoooo

    • fanfatrick - Jan 24, 2013 at 5:51 PM

      You lost me at legggoooo

  8. SOSB - Jan 24, 2013 at 5:55 PM

    What is comes down to is how willing the Lakers are going to be to take on the new luxury tax. If they are, you might have a chance to build a Championship team around dwight. If you aren’t, there is no way in hell they can assemble a title team for 70-80 million a year when Dwight makes 20. He simply isn’t that great. Orlando had huge payrolls in his last few years there and they were non-factors in the post-season.

    I agree with Kurt’s original point though: They need a plan, and quickly.

    Me, I’d be looking to ship Dwight out and try to keep winning with the proven commodities they possess. I understand the idea that the Lakers always need to have a ticket-selling franchise player, but it’s not as if they’ll have a hard time attracting one down the road, seeing as how everyone wants to play here.

  9. brenenostler - Jan 24, 2013 at 6:16 PM

    Get Phil Jackson back!

  10. tsnelson757 - Jan 24, 2013 at 6:50 PM

    Reblogged this on Nelson & Taylor are BuZZed.

  11. tmdill18 - Jan 24, 2013 at 7:00 PM

    Yeah, jeez. Enough of the 24/7 Lakers press. Wow. Give it a rest. Most NBA fans are sick of hearing about it. Reminds me of the Jets nonsense.

  12. fruitcovejag - Jan 24, 2013 at 7:03 PM

    Dwight has shown that he is overrated! I really thought that all Dwight needed was a dominant guard to get in his @$$, tell him where to go on the court, and help toughen him up(or focus him). Dwight should not worry about offense! Play D and rebound! Control the paint. He is SO limited offensively and is prone to turnovers. Get offensive put backs and don’t shoot outside of five feet from the basket!! Imo Dwight is the issue, not Kobe. Dwight should be dominant, instead he often disappears or just doesn’t appear to be giving full effort…

  13. davincizsp - Jan 24, 2013 at 8:30 PM

    I’ve been always thinking that maybe a athletic swing man such as Luol Deng or a pure shooter might be more helpful than Pau Gasol to the Lakers

  14. fanz928 - Jan 24, 2013 at 8:59 PM

    Kobe = tickets and actually someone to watch on lakers

  15. ckinthekc99 - Jan 24, 2013 at 9:03 PM

    You people that think Kobe is the problem, and should be traded are obviously blind, a complete Kobe hater, or not bright at all when it comes to basketball! Can people just make objective comments anymore, or does everything have to be an opinion based on not liking someone? Too many Skip Bayless’ out there who just make ridiculous comments that have no or very little merit or reasoning.

  16. mazblast - Jan 24, 2013 at 10:58 PM

    “even in an off year coming off back surgery he is as good as any big in the league”

    I’d love to see some actual, factual proof of that statement. Howard plays great defense when he’s focused. That’s it. His defense hasn’t been there most of this year, whether due to injuries, the lack of a team defense concept, or his own disinterest, you decide. Offensively, he has few moves, no range, and can’t shoot free throws.

  17. glink123 - Jan 25, 2013 at 12:41 AM

    To the clown who said to trade Kobe and Artest to the Pacers for Granger and Stephenson and a first rounder. You’re an idiot. Kobe’s salary for 2013 is $30.5 million. Artest’s salary for 2013 is $7.75 million, for a total of roughly $38 million. Granger’s salary for 2013 is $14 million, and Stephenson’s salary for 2013 is $1 million, for a total of $15 million. You’re about $23 million short, buddy. You’d have to include David West $10mil and Roy Hibbert $13 mil.

    • emosnar - Jan 25, 2013 at 2:19 PM

      … You’re right. Indiana needs to keep Stepenson actually include Hansborough. Don’t want to give up too much. Fudge the numbers. Its title town in Indy and Kobe is welcome along for the ride.

  18. dal24la - Jan 25, 2013 at 2:45 AM

    It’s a little premature to say a team that’s 4 or 5 games out of the playoffs won’t make it. I am not expecting the Lakers to do this but if they go on a 10 game winning streak they’d be the 7th or 8th seed, especially with how Houston’s been losing lately.

  19. omniusprime - Jan 25, 2013 at 8:51 AM

    There is no future for the Lakers if Dumbtoni stays any longer. He is destroying the team one game at a time because he’s totally clueless about how to get this group of players winning. As far as the future yes Dwight Howard is the man the Lakers want, the premier center of the NBA, when his back is healed up and his attitude is right on. Getting rid of Steve Trash and Steve Flake to bring in some good young point guards is imperative, that was the idea when they cut Fisher loose.

    Only a fool would get rid of Kobe, he is the spark plug for the team as he pushes everyone to play harder. He is the leader and if you trade him away the Lakers have no identity.

    As long as the little idiot buss boy is hell bent on destroying his father’s winning legacy of big men power teams the Lakers will be perennial losers. The best thing that could happen is if Daddy Buss wakes up and fires his worthless spoiled brat and replaces Jerky Boy Jim with Phil Jackson and Jeanie Buss. Phil may not really want to coach any longer but a front office job leading the organization would be a great fit for Phil and the Lakers. Daddy could give Phil and Jeanie a nice wedding present by giving them control of the team.

    I’m rooting for the Lakers to lose again, sooner or later with enough losses Dumbtoni has to be fired.

    Fire Dumbtoni!!! Trade Away the Nash Trash!!! Fire the little idiot buss boy!!! We Want Phil and Jeanie!!! We Want Pau!!!

  20. patrick800series - Jan 25, 2013 at 11:33 AM

    seems like after the Lakers decided to trade A.Bynum everything has went downhill

  21. ghelton03 - Jan 25, 2013 at 6:47 PM

    Lakers are uncoachable.

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