April 30, 2013
We have a major difference of opinion.
And I understand why you are wrong.
You began the season thinking, and being told by the media, the Lakers were going to be great because they had so much talent.
You didn't get it in the first five games, so Mike Brown was dismissed as coach.
Then you heard they were talking to Phil Jackson only to hear Mike D'Antoni announced as new coach.
You're not used to being so disappointed by Lakers management. You might have to adjust your thinking.
D'Antoni limped into town and told everyone he can always go play golf if things don't work out. It's probably not a good sign when you care more about the Lakers than the coach does.
You were told, just wait until Steve Nash gets healthy. You're no different from anyone else who doesn't like to be misled.
You might remember how much Pau Gasol changed the Lakers' fortunes a few years ago. The new coach did not give a rip.
You respect Kobe Bryant for his work ethic. You listen to what Kobe has to say. And there was more talk about Dwight Howard's smile holding him back than the time needed to recover from back surgery.
And you bought it.
You are spoiled as Lakers fans. I mentioned that to sports talk radio host Pat O'Brien on Monday, and it got me to thinking. Wasn't there a guy who used to be on TV decades ago with the same name?
Does anyone know if he's still alive?
Anyway, when the Lakers started to win again you had to be thinking they would somehow contend.
Magic Johnson, after counting the Lakers out, said they would be really dangerous if they made the playoffs.
You thought it was important they earn the seventh seed so they could beat the beatable Spurs.
D'Antoni allowed Kobe to dictate how much he played. You knew it was crazy, but you deemed Kobe heroic for playing so many minutes.
You were surprised when he got hurt.
The Lakers were done, and yet you still couldn't talk about anything else other than the Lakers and their chances for success.
Now that it is over, everyone is mad because Howard abandoned the team.
Magic left the Lakers behind for dead months ago, but he pounded Howard in a series of tweets Sunday for not being there in the end with his teammates.
I could argue he shouldn't have been there in the beginning while still trying to recover from back surgery.
But you don't want to hear that. You are emotional and you want someone to pay for letting you down.
You don't want to see Howard in a Lakers uniform again, and you couldn't be more wrong.
If you have an asset like Howard, arguably the best big man in a big man's game, do you really think the Lakers will be better off as a franchise just moving on without him?
You expect Kobe to return, and probably as the Kobe you remember. But for how long?
You forget how critical you were of Gasol for lacking toughness, and now you want him to be the team's primary big guy?
D'Antoni moves better now than the guy he wants to run the offense, and you think Nash is going to be any younger next season?
Don't you rebuild with the best big guy in the game anchoring the middle? And expect him to keep improving?
There is no question you'd feel better if the Lakers gave Howard the cold shoulder. That's where we are today in sports.
Social media allows the angry to vent anonymously and almost immediately with more emotion than thought.
And for someone like Howard, who has irritated so many while playing the free-agency game, the angry are just waiting to pounce.
But do you really want the Lakers to abandon Howard because he abandoned them in the final half of their last unwinnable game?
I remember a seventh playoff game against Phoenix when Kobe, then the same age Howard is now, inexplicably shut it down in the second half, shooting only three times and scoring one point.
When the Lakers played well for a stretch this season, Howard was in the middle of it all. On a team that played no defense, he might have been the exception.
He finished first in the league in rebounding coming off back surgery while also contending with a torn labrum.
Now when it comes to paying him $118 million . . .
OK, there isn't an athlete worth that unless he's dedicating it all to find the cure for cancer. But it's the way the game is played, and try sleeping tonight after a hard day's work knowing the Lakers paid Chris Duhon $3.5 million.
You might argue Howard doesn't have what it takes to be the face of this storied franchise.
Kobe was 26, coming off sexual assault charges, a feud with Shaq that ended the team's title hopes and Jackson calling him "uncoachable" in a book.
Howard is 27, smiling, immature and unable to make free throws. And he's never won a championship.
You can argue without rebuttal that Howard will never be as good as Kobe.
But you would be wrong if you dismissed the incredible talent that Howard does have because of two technical fouls.
If you want the best for the Lakers, then you want Howard.
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