July 7th, 2013
Are you really surprised? Everyone told you it was coming. Just like when your high school friends kept telling you that your girlfriend was going to breakup with you if you didn’t start treating her better. Well, the breakup finally happened. Dwight Howard left the Lakers for the Houston Rockets. That’s right Laker fans. You were $30 million richer, but your girlfriend just left you for Steve Urkel.
Say what you will about how much of a pussy you think Dwight Howard is for wanting no accountability, but this isn’t ok, and Jim Buss blew it. He blew it the moment that he chose Mike D’Antoni over Phil Jackson. What an absolutely embarrassing choice, that snowballed and culminated in this embarrassing moment.
Last summer, Mitch Kupchak assembled an incredible roster, with very few resources to work with. Kupchak somehow traded a Volvo for a Ferrari. Then his boss proceeded to take shit all over his Ferrari, to that point you couldn’t even recognize what it was. This could have been a championship team if it had a championship coach. Instead, Buss hired a complete misfit in D’Antoni, who managed to alienate nearly every player on the team, run his franchise player into the ground, and push a critical cornerstone of the franchise away. This was a spectacular collapse. Kupchak acquired Superman, yet Buss acquired kryptonite shortly thereafter.
Now what? The Lakers roster is older than the Bible, and even if Kobe gets healthy, it will be a struggle just to make the playoffs. LA only has its $3 million mini mid-level exception to spend, along with a veterans minimum of around $1 million on this years remaining free agents. However, every impact player is gone because the Lakers were waiting for Dwight to make up his mind.
Of course, the Lakers plan is to re-tool the team next summer when Lebron James, Carmelo Anthony, and other elite players will be free agents, and LA will have over $50 million to spend. Still, the Lakers recruiting pitch next summer won’t be nearly as good without a young piece like Dwight Howard. The Dallas Mavericks have been trying to play the free agency game for the last two summers, and have struck out more than Josh Hamilton. Meanwhile, their franchise player Dirk Nowitski is wasting the final years of his career. In other words, trying to build a championship team exclusively through free agency isn’t always the most effective strategy.
The biggest indictment in this situation isn’t on Dwight, and him being a mental midget. It’s on Jim Buss. When a player can leave an extra $30 million on the table to go play in a dump like Houston, you know you screwed up. Sure, David Stern has globalized the NBA to a point where playing in such a dump still allows a superstar to build their brand in places like China and Europe, but who leaves LA? If the Lakers road back to glory is through free agency next summer, then Jim Buss’ and his lack of leadership is a bigger problem than we thought.