THIS IS THE END…OF DWIGHT. (IF WE’RE LUCKY)

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And now we sit, waiting for Dwight Howard to finish off what just maybe be the most through mismanagement/demolition of sports franchise I’ve ever seen.

Just three years removed from back-to-back championships and sporting a roster that featured the greatest player (Kobe Bryant), most skilled big man (Pau Gasol), a future franchise center (Andrew Bynum) and the reigning 6th man of the year, (Lamar Odom), the Lakers stand on the verge of being left with nothing but I big, empty fucking whole in the earth where all of this used to stand.

After one year playing the “what else can go wrong game” (answer: pretty much everything) in Los Angeles, Dwight Howard is indeed free to do whatever he wants. Now, the basics of it are pretty simple. Since the Lakers own his rights, they can sign him to a 5 year contract while any other team can only give him 4 years, meaning he’d be leaving just over 30 million dollars on the table if he decided to spurn the Lakers. If Dwight decides that less money is a small price to pay for avoiding the scrutiny, the expectations and the overwhelming pressure that comes with playing for the Lakers, he will have put the final nail in the coffin of a team that has been in a complete nosedive ever since Jimmy Buss took over daily operations from his late father, Jerry.

Just like that, the Lakers will be left with nothing.

If Howard splits for Houston or Atlanta or whoever else, this team will be fucked, more or less. See, they’ll be right at the luxury tax threshold even without signing Howard, which means they won’t be able to add any pieces. Thing is, it’s legal to re-sign your own free agents without regard to the cap. The best they could do is swing a sign-and-trade with whatever team Howard chooses, so that he gets his full 5 year contract and the Lakers maybe get an asset or two out of the deal.

Take a second to soak all of this in.

Think about the 2014 Lakers trotting out a starting like-up of Steve Nash, Jodie Meeks, World Peace, Pau Gasol and Jordan Hill while holding their breath for the return of Kobe from Achilles surgery. Think about what comes after that likely nightmare of a season. Then, you’ll have Kobe’s free-agency and the prospect of starting completely over, with nothing but nothing.

And just when you thought this story couldn’t get any more pathetic than it already was, it did.

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As sad as this may be, the idea of publicly begging a guy to sign a 110 million dollar contract to stay with the glory franchise of the NBA, as completely pandering and co-dependant and absent of dignity as all of this may be, I couldn’t help but get a real funny feeling about it, something of a “now where have I seen this before?” kind of feeling.

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Fuck me.

If there is any silver lining to this shit, it has to be that the Laker sign is at least somewhat dignified compared to Orlando’s hideously ass kissing “PLEEZE SUPERMAN STAY AND PROTECT OUR METROPOLIS FROM THOSE WART-INFESTED LEX LUTHOR’S FROM BOSTON!!!’ monstrosity. Other than that though, good luck finding anything positive in this story.

Well, that’s the conventional wisdom at least. I’m not so sure myself. I mean, signing Dwight for the next five years likely means consigning yourself to mediocrity from that same length of time, putting the fate of your franchise in the hands of a guy who prioritizes being loved by strangers everywhere or being thought of as a swell guy over winning and being the very best player he can be. Where Laker fans or concerned, that’s not good enough. Not after Magic and Kareem won five titles in style, not after Shaquille O’ Neal knocked everyone on their asses for three straight years and not after 17 years of Kobe Bryant’s downright sociopathic drive to succeed.

Sorry, but no thank you.

Yes, I’m well aware that this has never been a place where rebuilding is on the agenda, but isn’t there a first time for everything? If Dwight is out the door and the Lakers are left with nothing more than Pau, Nash and a rehabbing Kobe, is it really the worst idea to just nuke it and start over? Within a year they will have a totally blank salary cap and a chance to start all over again, and since the Lakers still play in Los Angeles, it’s a safe bet to assume that they can still attract glamour free agents who unlike Dwight Howard, will covet the opportunity to play in the spotlight instead of cowering away from it. Oh, and if your skeptical of this strategy, now would be a good time to remind you that even though the Lakers traded away a bushel of draft picks to get Howard and Nash last summer, they still own their first round pick for next year, and it just so happens that the 2014 draft looks like one of the best in years and already features not one but two potential franchise players in Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker. Me, I’d say trading Pau and Nash for young guys and picks, be lousy next year and having a chance to land a future superstar in the draft is a pretty good plan. The only hitch in this strategy is it likely means Kobe will move on, either be trade or in free agency after his deal expires after next season. As much as it sucks to say this out loud, the reality is a team with Kobe, Pau and Nash isn’t going to be good enough to do anything significant, and the lakers are out of options to improve the team short-term if Dwight bails.  It is what it is.

Seriously, doesn’t that sound better than 5 more years of Dwight Howard? Wouldn’t you rather watch a young team grow together and take their lumps than to be forced to endure five more years of Dwight excuses, lack of competitive fire and atrocious free throw shooting? At the very least, you could put a young, athletic team out there that might win more games playing Mike D’ Antoni’s run & gun style than last years 100 million dollar supposed “super team” did.

I understand the business of Basketball and more specifically, what Dwight Howard means to the Lakers’ bottom line, financially speaking. I also know that most of the fans couldn’t give a shit about the financial solvency of the Lakers, especially the Jim Buss Lakers, and dwight might be worth money at the Box Office, but building a team around him at this stage of his career is a dog that won’t hunt, for reasons to do with not only basketball, but character and maturity as well.

As the old saying goes, don’t throw good money after bad. After one season of the Dwight Howard experiment, I don’t think there is any doubt than this franchise is in worse shape than it was before he got here.

Hey, it was a failure. Simple as that. It’s time to let him go.

-JH

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