Lakers re-group after being spurned by Howard
Suddenly, next season isn’t looking so bright for the Los
Having been spurned by Dwight Howard, the Lakers are facing a
tough season with an aging roster led by Kobe Bryant – and even
he’s not ready to go. It’s not known when the five-time champion
will return as he recovers from Achilles’ tendon surgery.
Howard’s choice of Houston over Los Angeles leaves
oft-criticized Pau Gasol as the Lakers’ lone remaining big man. If
coach Mike D’Antoni were to pencil in his lineup now for opening
night, there would be a few holes.
Besides Gasol, the Lakers figure to have Steve Nash, Steve Blake
and Jordan Hill as starters. Metta World Peace could be waived via
the league’s amnesty provision and Earl Clark is already gone,
having agreed to a two-year deal with Cleveland.
Los Angeles must decide how much it can add while preserving the
majority of the 2014 cap space, with Nash the only current player
who has a deal past next June. A more severe luxury tax will take
effect next season, possibly forcing the Lakers to trim spending in
order to get under the threshold.
The Lakers aren’t even looking like the best NBA team in their
own arena. That status belongs to the Clippers, who just lured Doc
Rivers away from the Celtics to coach and retained Chris Paul on
the first day of free agency.
Bryant took part in the Lakers’ courtship of Howard on Tuesday,
but then Bryant posted a photo on Instagram of himself and Gasol
shortly after Howard’s decision on Friday night. Bryant captioned
it with the Spanish words vamos (let’s go), juntos (together) and
”Naturally we’re disappointed,” Lakers general manager Mitch
Kupchak said in a statement Friday. ”However, we will now move
forward in a different direction with the future of the franchise
and, as always, will do our best to build the best team possible,
one our great Lakers fans will be proud to support.”
Howard’s tenure in Los Angeles was mostly unremarkable, with
averages of 17.1 points and 12.4 rebounds in 76 games after playing
his way back into shape following back surgery. He arrived last
August from Orlando as part of a four-way trade that included
Philadelphia and Denver.
After injuries to Bryant, Gasol and Nash, the Lakers were swept
in the first round of the playoffs by San Antonio. After coach Mike
Brown was let go early in the season, Howard struggled to fit into
D’Antoni’s system and the big man repeatedly denied rumors of a
rift between him and Bryant.
Howard could have re-signed with the Lakers for five years and
$118 million. Now he’s looking at a deal with Houston for four
years and $88 million.
Retired Lakers big man Shaquille O’Neal, who famously had issues
with Bryant, took a swipe at Howard on Saturday.
”We’ve all been in LA, and not a whole lot of people can handle
being under the bright lights,” O’Neal said at Daytona
International Speedway. ”Everybody wants to do it, but when you
get there, there are certain pressures. I think it was a safe move
for him to go to a little town like Houston.”