Dwight Howard was thought to be a franchise player, the type of max-contract guy you wanted to build around.
Then, as other NBA players joined forces in Boston, Miami, on the Clippers, and most recently Brooklyn, forming Super Teams, Howard was stuck in Orlando. He pouted. He had an ugly ending with coach Stan Van Gundy, then forced his way out of town.
Howard’s been a disaster with the Lakers (perhaps slowed by an injury) and everyone’s starting to doubt whether or not LA should keep him and sign him to a long term deal, or trade him now and build for the future. Howard reportedly isn’t happy; columnists are already starting to wonder if it is time to move on and annul the marriage.
If you keep Howard, do you then trade Pau Gasol? The two clearly aren’t working in Mike D’Antoni’s system, and Gasol has been relegated to the bench.
Here’s a worst case scenario: LA decides to trade Gasol (get younger on the wing, dump some salary), keep D’Antoni, and then Howard decides he’s not a good fit in that system and bolts for Atlanta or Houston in July.
So here’s the alternative: Keep Gasol, trade Howard (good luck finding someone who he’ll definitely sign with) and keep D’Antoni. You’ll spend the offseason repairing the Gasol/D’Antoni relationship, which seems frayed. You’ll also still be an ancient team, and have no immediate hope for the future.
So maybe the move is … back up the Brinks for Phil Jackson, keep Howard and Gasol, and get them to play together the way Bynum and Gasol did? Sounds good in theory, but there’s still that pesky luxury tax to deal with.
All of this means the next few weeks leading up to the trade deadline are going to be incredibly fun.
How about trading both, and putting guys like Josh Smith or Rajon Rondo around Kobe for one final run?
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