By Kevin R. Linares
The Los Angeles Lakers played Dwight Howard and his new team for the first time since he left the team in free agency and it ended in Hollywood fashion. The Lakers beat the Houston Rockets 99-98 off a big shot by Steve Blake with one second remaining.
The Lakers had a great first half leading by 14 points and shot 11 of 14 from the three but they could not keep it consistent in the second half. Rockets slowly brought the game closer and closer until it was finally a game for the Rockets to win. Turnovers became a big issue for the Lakers having a total of 24 tonight. James Harden led the Rockets with 35 points while Howard scored 15 but could not score free throws that could have put the game away for his team when the Mike D’Antoni chose to go with “hack-a-howard.”
Pau Gasol had a horrible game shooting 1 for 10 ending the night with only two points. Jodie Meeks led the Lakers in scoring with 18 points and was 5 for 7 from the three point line. Wesley Johnson had his best game as a Lakers with 16 points, 4 rebounds and 2 blocks. A total of six Laker players ended the game in double digits. The play of the night went to Blake who hit the game winning shot over his former teammate Howard. Blake finished the night with 14 points and 2 assists.
The Lakers will play another game tomorrow night against the New Orleans Pelicans in what will be a tough match up with a team full of young and athletic players. The Lakers will be without Steve Nash who will be resting on back to back games this year. With a big win tonight it will be interesting to see if the Lakers will carry over the energy into tomorrow’s game or if they are left without energy on back to back games.
By Kevin R. Linares
The Houston Rockets were believed to be the front runners all along in the convincing Dwight Howard that they are the best choice for him and it appears they are indeed. After it being reported by Sam Amick from USA Today that Howard had chosen to sign with the Houston Rockets, Dan Fegan, Howard’s agent, said that there was no decision made yet. There were also reports about Howard taking a plane to meet with Lakers’ general manager Mitch Kupchak and he was still split between the Rockets and the Lakers but Howard has now told Kupchak that he would not be returning to the Lakers.
“We have been informed of Dwight’s decision to not return to the Lakers.” Kupchak said in a statement confirming that Dwight would indeed join the Rockets, his third team in three years. What does this mean for the Lakers? They will have to look forward to 2014 when they will have plenty of cap space to find one of the many free agents. They will have to rely on Pau Gasol to play center again, Kobe Bryant to recover continuing to play at a high level and have the rest of the team to do their part in competing in the 2013-2014 season.
Although it will be an old team and without Howard, the Lakers still have enough to compete for playoff position. There will be some small moves made by the Lakers to replace Earl Clark and Metta World Peace if amnestied as well as other fill ins.
The Houston Rockets made some noise in the playoffs last year but will do more than just that next season. With Howard and James Harden the Rockets have a great duo who can compete for at least the fourth spot in the Western conference playoffs. There are reports that Omar Asik does not want to play behind Howard and there might be a trade for Josh Smith with the Atlanta Hawks or the New Orleans Pelicans for Ryan Anderson but nothing official has been reached.
With this being his third team in three years Dwight has to prove he is worth all of this. He left the Orlando Magic, a team he went to the NBA finals with, he left one of the most successful franchises in the world in the Lakers and now will join the Rockets where he has an opportunity to once again become the top big man in the league and immediately compete for a championship. Win and he will look at this as one of the best decisions he has ever made. Lose and he will be looking back at the options that he had and what could have been if he had chosen to go down a different path.
(USA Today Sports/Craig Mitchelldyer)
By Kevin R. Linares
With talk about where Dwight Howard will end up next season growing, there have been many teams that have risen as possible threats to the Lakers. Teams that have been named include the Dallas Mavericks, Houston Rockets, Golden State Warriors, Atlanta Hawks and even the Los Angeles Clippers.
Teams like the Warriors and Clippers would definitely love to have Howard playing for their team. How crazy would it sound to have Howard, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson on the Warriors? Or how about both Dwight Howard and Chris Paul on the Clippers? That would definitely make Laker fans “love” David Stern and his vetoed Chris Paul to Lakers trade even more. Realistically speaking, Howard going to the Warriors or Clippers would be a long shot. Both teams would have to make difficult arrangements to free up space as well as break up the teams they have now which are not bad at all.
The Mavericks, Hawks and Rockets are teams that would be able to bring Howard because of their free cap space or ability to free up cap space. The Mavericks have put themselves in a great position and are reportedly shopping around their 13th pick in the draft to make their run at Howard. With Dirk Nowitzki aging, would Howard give up around $30 million that the Lakers can offer more to go play with an aging superstar in Dallas. People will say he already is playing with an aging superstar in Kobe Bryant but how about that $30 million difference?
The Atlanta Hawks will have some edge with it being Howard’s hometown. With players coming off their payroll they will have enough cap space to bring in Howard. If Josh Smith, a close friend of Howard’s, intends to resign with the Hawks he can be the man to try and lure Howard. Again, will teaming up with Josh Smith in his hometown be enough to have Howard turn down that extra $30 million the Lakers will be able to offer him?
The Houston Rockets have been able to assemble some young and very talented pieces led by James Harden and coach Kevin McHale. This is a team that almost shocked the favorites in the West in their first year being together. Something the Rockets were missing was defense and bringing in Howard would definitely be a boost in that category. The Rockets can work to make cap space for Howard and might have enough in terms of talent to lure Howard away from the Lakers.
No team can offer Howard as many years and as much money that the Lakers can. Howard wanted to be in the spotlight and what better place for that than with the Lakers in Los Angeles. It would take sometime for the Lakers to bring in some other pieces to bring them back into title contention with them having an aging roster but if all healthy and in the same page they can be a threat. We saw a a glimpse of that in the second half of the 2012-2013 season. The biggest threat to the Lakers would be the Houston Rockets. The spotlight is definitely not as big, the money and years are not as much but the roster is something special. Howard will listen to what teams have to offer and coming to play with a young talented roster led by James Harden in Houston will be something he will take into serious consideration, for the Laker’s sake, hopefully not too serious.
(Getty Images/Stephen Dunn)
By Kevin R. Linares
The Los Angeles Lakers find themselves just one win away from making the playoffs. The Lakers big win over the San Antonio Spurs without Kobe Bryant, who will be out for the season and playoffs, was one that was much needed as the Utah Jazz won against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Dwight Howard led the team in the game against the Spurs with 26 points. Steve Blake, who is starting for Steve Nash who is now expected to miss the last game of the season, scored 23 points providing a much needed spark.
The Lakers with just the final game left against the Houston Rockets can find themselves out of the playoffs, remain at the 8th and final spot or even move up to the 7th spot. With a win over the Rockets on Wednesday the purple and gold will find themselves at the 7th seed. If the Lakers were to lose against the Rockets, they would need the Utah Jazz to lose against the Memphis Grizzlies to remain at the 8th spot. If the Lakers were to lose against the Rockets and the Jazz beat the Grizzlies the Lakers would be out of the playoffs.
The Lakers will have a size advantage over the Rockets with both Pau Gasol and Howard. If the Lakers manage to get into the playoffs both Howard and Gasol will be their biggest weapons. The best outcome for Los Angeles would be to beat the Houston Rockets to climb up to the 7th seed and avoid playing the Oklahoma City Thunder. The match up against the Spurs would be better for the Lakers due to the size advantage. The Lakers beat the Spurs without Kobe Bryant and the other games played earlier in the season ended with L.A. losing but by a margin no greater than three. NBA fans will also be please to see the match up of the Thunder against James Harden and the Rockets as well. The Lakers are in control of their own destiny and will have to look to beat the Rockets because the Utah Jazz will bring a fight to Memphis because it is “Win or Go Home.”