Painful. Excruciating. Gut-wrenching.
Choose your adjective of choice, but it is highly likely that one of those describes your reaction as Mavs fans when you saw on the ESPN ticker: “Dwight Howard To Lakers.” The summer had already been considered a disappointment when The Colony native, Deron Williams, decided to keep his talents on the East Coast and help usher in a new era for the newly located Brooklyn Nets. Now, to add on to that, Howard gets traded to a team who already addressed a big need earlier this summer by acquiring former Mavericks point guard Steve Nash, and isn’t exactly lacking talent with Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol.
Sure, this move doesn’t come as THAT unexpected considering the amount of times you would see “Dwight” and “Lakers” both trending on Twitter in the same sentences, but it came as a shock that the Lakers were willing to part with Andrew Bynum, who had been a stalwart in the lineup the last few years since his knee problems had been remedied.
You could obviously cite his immaturity issues–it isn’t like Dwight is trailing Bynum by much in that department– and undisciplined behavior as reasons why the Lakers weren’t that miffed to be rid of him, but he certainly did not make them a worse team in any respect (Unless he was doing this) and had become a top-tier center. Los Angeles pulled the trigger, though, and have become the most complete team in the Western Conference.
Don’t mince words when you tell your Mavs friends how this makes you feel, it ticks you off! All the teams Howard could choose and it just HAS to be the Lakers and it HAS to be when Dallas thought it may have a real shot to land him next summer in free agency because of his indecisiveness on if he would sign a long-term contract extension to whichever team he was traded to this year. Don’t get me wrong, Dallas has improved greatly over the summer with the acquisitions of Darren Collison, O.J. Mayo, Chris Kaman, Elton Brand and Dahantay Jones. None of those are sexy names that will give them a realistic shot to dethrone a team like OKC, though– let alone tackle the new foursome: “Dwobe Nashol.”
The Mavericks struggled mightily inside last year after choosing not to resign Tyson Chandler. Brendan Haywood had his worst year since his rookie season in 2001 and Dallas never found a comfortable rotation that they felt good with every night. Chris Kaman will be the best offensive center the Mavs have ever had, but he will not challenge the likes of Dwight in any contest.
The one weakness that still stands out about the Lakers is their bench, they signed NBA journeyman Antwaan Jamison, who averaged 17.1 ppg for the Cavs last year, and hope he can provide some punch off the pine along with Steve Blake and Jodie Meeks –another player signed for his outside shooting ability. I still feel like presence of Howard will run offenses out of rhythm and enable LA to press the ball and keep the opponent reliant on outside shooting, which will be to the Lakers advantage as it will take away points in the paint.
Let’s do a pretend interview between me and a “fan” to compare how the other teams in the West stack up to the quad-connection in Laker land. It will be like a Bill Simmons article without the pop culture references.
Me: So, who do you think has a chance to beat the Los Angeles Lakers in the West this year?”
Fan: “I just don’t see how the Lakers can beat OKC, the Thunder are too young and fast and have too much talent offensively”
Me: “You make some good points, anonymous fan, but what you fail to understand is that the Lakers now have a 26-year-old brick wall standing in the paint. In addition, LA has another big body in Gasol –not as proficient defensively as D12– who can clog the inside. The Thunder’s three primary scorers: Durant, Westbrook and Harden -who account for nearly 70% of OKC’s offensive output- will have their inside game diminished greatly, which would be a detriment to Westbrook more than anyone, seeing as his game is predicated on the ability to penetrate in the lane. The Lakers would force OKC into a lot of turnovers which is how you frustrate a young team.
Fan: “Well ok, how about the Spurs? They are still a very solid team.”
Me: “True, but they are getting old and father time is catching up with Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobli. Ginobli looked as young as ever in London at the Olympics, but Duncan is not who he once was and SA doesn’t have the personnel to matchup with Dwight and double-team Kobe effectively. It is really a pick-your-poison option.
Fan: “If you are saying that young teams have the best chance, maybe the Clippers, they had a good offseason and are a good squad.”
Me: “Yes, the Clippers did have a nice free agency with the additions of Jamal Crawford and Lamar Odom, as well as resigning Chauncey Billups. Defense is the worry here, once again, nobody to stop Dwight crashing the offensive glass, and Howard basically makes Blake Griffin obsolete. Griffin is going to be a question mark coming back from knee surgery, also. The Clippers could not stop Andrew Bynum in 2011, Dwight is a step up on the totem pole from him.
The Lakers are the clear frontrunners in the west, does that mean they can’t lose? Of course not.
There is a certain “Big three” in South Beach who will tell you how tough it is to exceed expectations as the favorite.