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.
Image from bleacherreport
By Kevin R. Linares
The Los Angeles Lakers came into Atlanta with a four game win streak and it sounded like they would have it easy as it was announced that Josh Smith would miss the game due to a sprained knee. That was not the case, the Hawks beat the Lakers 96 to 92. Not only did the Lakers lose the game but they also suffered an injury. Kobe Bryant had trouble shooting tonight but put in 31 points and almost had another late heroic performance to lead the Lakers over Atlanta but fell short.
Kobe went up for a jumper to tie the game but fell missed and landed on Dahntay Jones’ foot. Kobe had x-rays after the game which came out negative. It was announced that he had suffered a severe left ankle sprain and would be out indefinitely. Bryant after the game told reporters that referees need to do a better job of protecting shooters. He also tweeted out saying “#dangerousplay that should have been called Period.” Kobe has played through injuries numerous times but when asked about the injury he said it was his worst pain since back in 2000. Dahntay Jones also tweeted after the game saying “Tape doesn’t lie. Ankle was turned on the floor after the leg kick out that knocked him off balance. I would never try to hurt the man.” Back in 2009 Jones received a flagrant 1 foul for tripping Bryant in a playoff series against the Denver Nuggets. The following is a clip from that play:
Now the injury happened right before the end of the game. There is no excuse for the Lakers losing this game especially playing an Atlanta Hawk team missing one of their best players in Josh Smith. Luckily for the Lakers, the Utah Jazz also lost their game to the Oklahoma City Thunder, 87 to 110. With both teams losing, the standings stay the same with the Lakers a half game over the Jazz in the 8th playoff spot.
Kobe’s injury might require him to miss a game or more. It is fair to say he should miss at least a game to rest and heal up. Aside from Friday’s game against the Indiana Pacers, the upcoming schedule for the purple and gold should not be too difficult, but who knows if the Lakers will continue to make games that should be won easy look hard. The schedule includes teams like the Sacramento Kings, Phoenix Suns and Washington Wizards. If Kobe needed to rest and heal an injury this would be the best time to do it.
The problem here is if the rest of the players on the team would step up to the plate. A team that has Steve Nash, Dwight Howard and Metta World Peace in the starting line up alone should be able to win against the teams coming up, not including the Pacers of course. If Kobe were to miss a few games, Dwight Howard needs to be the Dwight Howard that showed up in Orlando just the other day. Steve Nash is not the same guy that played in a Sun’s uniform but he can still take over a game and needs to do so.
The Lakers are finally sitting in a playoff spot, for now. They need to find ways other than Bryant to make their playoff push. They have been hit with injuries all season and cannot seem to catch a break. With Pau Gasol possibly coming back next week maybe he can try and take some of the load off Kobe. For now we will have to wait and see if Kobe does need to take a game or more off. If he does, will Dwight, Nash and the rest of the team be able to keep it together?