Lakers roundtable: Dwight Howard could face adjustment period
Below are the highlights of my conversation with the Orlando Sentinel’s Magic reporter Brian Schmitz on everything surrounding Dwight Howard getting traded to Los Angeles:
On Howard adjusting to the Lakers as a possible fourth offensive option: “He’s going to have to. He has little choice now because his reputation is in shambles. I don’t know whether hate is the word, but he’s probably the most despised player in the NBA surpassing LeBron James. Whoever thought that could’ve happened? He has to really fall in line with whatever Mike Brown and Kobe Bryant have in their plans for him to rebound and play defense ... If Dwight does those things and doesn’t worry about scoring, the Lakers are scary.”
On whether Howard would follow that blueprint: “I hope he would, if he’s smart. Look at that lineup. Steve Nash is the best shooting point guard in the league. Kobe Bryant is the guy in the fourth quarter. Pau Gasol has a better offensive game than Dwight. Metta World Peace is a defender, three-point shooter and has his own role. Dwight, you can’t get him the ball in the fourth quarter because he can’t make free throws. He doesn’t have a lot of offensive versatility. It’s gotten better with using both hands and a hook shot. But he can’t step away from the basket ... But if he uses the pick-and-roll with Steve Nash, he will light it up. I assume Nash and Kobe will feature him early in the game. But late in the game, it’s going to be Kobe and Nash."
On Orlando’s reaction to the trade: “Flags are flying at half-mast. It’s a dark day because some of these people here remember losing Shaq to the Lakers in 1996. Orlando is just sort of a farm team for the Lakers.”
On Orlando getting Arron Afflalo, Al Harrington, Nikola Vucevic and one protected future first-round pick from the Lakers, Denver Nuggets and Philadelphia 76ers: “It’s not a good deal. Let’s not kid ourselves at all. The best thing they got out of it is they got to move some contracts ... Dwight held them effectively hostage and hamstrung all their efforts to move him to get a really good deal because he listed only his preferred destinations, starting with Brooklyn. The Magic really had its hands tied.”
On how the Magic makes this deal work: “They didn’t get a lot of great draft picks through this Howard trade. They’re real low first-rounders. But the Magic will have to use their own lottery picks the next two seasons to get the top college player ... This is where a lot of losing comes in. The only way to get better in the league at times is to get worse. The Magic have to set its eyes on a 20 or 25-win season to get the highest pick possible.”
On why Orlando was reluctant to take Andrew Bynum: “He’s going to be a free agent and the Magic didn’t want to go through the same thing as they did with Dwight in not knowing whether the guy would just leave ...They did research on Bynum’s physical stature and they don’t believe his knees are going to hold up much longer. You can see that Bynum’s going to Germany to get the same knee procedure as Kobe Bryant and Alex Rodriguez had. The other thing, as Laker fans are well aware of, Bynum is immature at times. It just haunts the team and could’ve provided a distraction.”
On whether there was a turning point where it was clear Howard wouldn’t stay in Orlando: “It was really a procession of things that ended up bothering Dwight. After the 2009 Finals and lost to the Lakers, this team got worse. They were never able to get Dwight that star sidekick or go-to guy, or guy who could create his own shot. They tried. They spent a lot of money on Rashard Lewis, who was never a No. 1 guy, but more of a shooter and role player. They tried getting something out of Vince Carter hoping he had some gas left. Gilbert Arenas, all these reaches to get Dwight back to the Finals and showing him they would have a team that could compete year in and year out; they never did that.
To exacerbate that, of course, Howard’s relationship with Stan Van Gundy went down the tubes. You could see in the last season with Stan charging Dwight tried to get him fired ... There were a lot of people telling Dwight that since he was in his prime, this was his chance to cash in at a big market. All of those things factored in to where we are now.”
On witnessing Van Gundy confirm reports to the media scrum that Howard asked the front office to fire him moments before Howard put his arm around him and denied the stories: “I saw Dwight trying to slip out the door, so I leave that media scrum and go over to the hallway to make sure Dwight doesn’t leave. I wanted to get his reaction to the story that he tried to get Stan fired. I asked Dwight and he denies it and tries to make fun of it.
Then he asks me, ‘Should I go over there to the huddle and put my arm around Stan?’ I had no idea Stan had outed him. So there goes Dwight stomping over and acting goofy as possible walking into an ambush. That embarrassed Dwight because the Magic didn’t come to his defense. They couldn’t because the story was true. Dwight asked ownership several times to replace Stan. That was the turning point.”
On whether Chris Duhon and Earl Clark, both who are going to the Lakers, will have any value: “I don’t see how Chris Duhon can help them at all. It got to the point here where he didn’t want to shoot the ball. He lost so much confidence. He was a bit better last year, but to me he’s a third point guard.
Earl Clark is interesting because he’s an undersized power forward, but he’s athletic and can block shots. I think people will enjoy watching him play.”
*You can follow more of Schmitz’s work on the Orlando Sentinel’s website and on Twitter. Schmitz also wrote an ebook titled, “Dwightmare: Dwight Howard, the Orlando Magic, and the Season of Dysfunction.”
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