August 13, 2012
Last month, it was Steve Nash. Last week, Dwight Howard.
The Los Angeles Lakers weren’t satisfied with only the addition of Nash and last week, traded for Orlando Magic star, Dwight Howard. As part of the deal, the Lakers dealt away its most talented young player, center Andrew Bynum.
On the surface, the Lakers have the look of perhaps the best team in the NBA. But haven’t we seen this movie before?
Nearly a decade ago in 2003, Los Angeles bulked up adding future Hall of Famers Karl Malone and Gary Payton to their pair of veteran stars, Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal. Forget merely winning the NBA title – the Lakers were supposed to be unstoppable and seriously threaten the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls’ record for wins in a season. Instead, Los Angeles won a somewhat modest (by their standards, anyway) 56 games, and while they reached the finals, they lost in 5 games to the Detroit Pistons.
In other words, the last time Los Angeles loaded up on a steady diet of star power, things didn’t exactly work out.
The other thing of note is that Howard might be gone almost as quickly as he arrived. He’s due to become a free agent at the end of the season and made no known guarantees to the team that he’s sticking around for more than one year. Los Angeles had the same issue with Bynum since his current deal is set to expire after this season as well. But by most accounts, Bynum would have been more willing to stay with the franchise than Howard might be.
There’s also Howard’s increasingly swelled attitude to deal with. He was, to put it politely, not the easiest person for the Magic to deal with over the past year. There was even the incredibly uncomfortable situation of him having to play for head coach Stan Van Gundy, who he reportedly tried to have fired by the team’s management. Superman’s ego isn’t out of control on a Terrell Owens level just yet, but his attitude in L.A. will definitely be something to monitor.
Despite all of that, though, there’s plenty of reason to be excited about the Lakers for fans of the franchise. At 26, Howard is the league’s best center without question. He not only has the potential to be a Hall of Famer, but depending on how many rings he wins, he can be considered an all-time great at the position. Whenever you have the opportunity to acquire such a talent, most of the time you have to go for it.
The team was also able to hold onto All-star power forward Pau Gasol. When rumors of the deal gained steam last week, Gasol was mentioned as a player potentially on the move. But in keeping him, the Lakers assured themselves of having one of the top frontcourts in the league. That’s important because with an older backcourt of Bryant and Nash, Los Angeles will need adequate defenders in the paint to keep opposing guards out. In Howard and Gasol, they have that.
The Lakers arguably go from merely being a contender for the title to the team everyone will be chasing. That doesn’t mean the City of Angels is guaranteed to be holding yet another parade celebration next June, but Los Angeles is surely in a better position than they were a year ago.