NBA

Dwight deal wouldn't fix real Laker woe

Dwight Howard may yet land with Lakers — but they need more.
Dwight Howard may yet land with Lakers — but they need more.
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Mark Kriegel

Mark Kriegel is the national columnist for FOXSports.com. He is the author of two New York Times best sellers, Namath: A Biography and Pistol: The Life of Pete Maravich, which Sports Illustrated called "the best sports biography of the year."

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If nothing else, Friday night's affair between the Los Angeles Lakers and Orlando Magic will incite a new round of rhetorical speculation regarding The Trade.


That would be this presumably inevitable deal to bring Dwight Howard to LA. Lakers fans believe it is their inalienable right to the game’s most dominant center: George Mikan, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O’Neal and, now, Howard, of course.

Never mind that true centers are in shorter supply than ever. (Hence, Thursday’s re-debut of Eddy Curry after two very fat years collecting, oh, about $22 million on an Isiah Thomas contract.) And never mind that the Lakers already have the second-best true center in the league. Not even Andrew Bynum would be surprised to see Andrew Bynum traded.

Just weeks ago, on the eve of this mercifully shortened regular season, Bynum still was anticipating the deal that would land him in Orlando.

“I think things are still going on,” he said. “At the end of the day, if that’s the only trade I’m worried about, I’m fine with that.”

I’m sure most people would be gratified to see Howard in purple and gold. The Lakers would have another outsized talent, which would be a source of comfort to their fans and, albeit secretly, their haters. But it wouldn’t solve their problems.

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Whatever happens Friday night, whoever gains an advantage in the Howard vs. Bynum debate, it doesn’t really matter. Either way, the Lakers are good at center. If you can get Howard for Bynum straight up, sure, that’s a great deal. But it still doesn’t make good on the Lakers' oft-proclaimed goal, or Kobe Bryant’s diminishing window of opportunity.

Another Hall of Fame center sounds nice. But there’s something the Lakers need a whole lot more. That would be a point guard.

Short of a 40-point game from Bryant, the Lakers have quickly become almost unwatchable. Look, I covered the Knicks in the '90s. I’ve seen my share of plodding, station-to-station basketball. But I’m older now, and not what I was. I really don’t know if I can get through this.

You saw what happened Thursday night? The most anticipated matchup of this young season, Heat vs. Lakers, LeBron vs. Kobe. Whoop-de-damn-do. It turned out to be almost as exciting as the BCS.

That same day Bynum spoke of his potential trade to Orlando, Bryant spoke of the Lakers, as presently constituted, winning a title.

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“I believe we are championship contenders, I really do,” he said. “People are underestimating the value of Andrew — what Andrew can do, what Pau (Gasol) can do, and myself. That’s three dominant players there on the floor.”

He was right about Bynum, I think. He was right, at least in theory, about having three dominant players. But I don’t know who he was trying to kid — himself, perhaps? — about the Lakers being contenders.

Bryant loves Mike Brown, and Mike Brown loves Bryant. That’s spectacular. But what you’re seeing now is how much the Lakers miss Phil Jackson. We are all witnesses. In Los Angeles as in Chicago, Jackson had great players, including four of the very best ever to play the game (Michael, Kobe, Shaq and Scottie, in descending order). But Jackson never had a great point guard. He didn’t need one.

The triangle offense made up for it. The ball moved. The open man was found (unless, of course, Bryant was having one of those nights). If you played, that meant you could pass.

But now? Now you watch the Lakers, you get 37 points at halftime.

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The Lakers miss Lamar Odom. They miss the triangle. But they don’t have a point guard to compensate for what they lack. They were too old to run last year. But now, the ball doesn't move. They can’t run, and they don't pass.

According to the stat sheet, Gasol had a great game Thursday against the Heat: 26 points, eight rebounds. But only two assists. In fact, he was better in the triangle. Remember that great high-low passing game he would play with Bynum? No more. Remember how Odom could pass? No more.

Mitch Kupchak knew what he was doing when the Lakers traded for Chris Paul. While everyone was talking about Dwight Howard, the general manager traded for a point guard. Then David Stern, acting on the completely objective advice of his owners, nixed it.

Now what? You think the commissioner could work out a deal for Deron Williams? Even Lakers fans have their limits. How much more of this can you watch?

Tagged: Lakers, Heat, Magic, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Dwight Howard, Andrew Bynum

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