Dwight Howard made his intentions known Friday night, much to the chagrin of Los Angeles Lakers fans.
The 27-year-old free agent center announced on Twitter, after a story from ESPN, that he will sign with the Houston Rockets, ending nearly a year of speculation and uncertainty in La La Land. He can’t officially sign a deal until July 10, when the NBA’s moratorium on business officially ends.
Citing a core of young players, and head coach Kevin McHale, Howard said his decision was solely based on winning a championship. He said he feels the Rockets have a better chance to win it all than the Lakers.
While the loss of Howard could be painful for Laker fans in the short run, long term it could be a blessing in disguise.
Below are reasons Laker fans should feel better off without Howard.
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Coach And Team Killer
Howard had a solid run with the the Orlando Magic and head coach Stan Van Gundy, but when the team started to slide that’s when Howard showed his true colors.
Van Gundy announced to the world during a press conference in his final year with Orlando that he knew for a fact Howard had requested the coach be fired.
That kind of backhanded insubordination is awful for any team, especially one hoping to capture a title. Los Angeles is not the organization that bends easily to short-term player demands, and overall Howard could have done the team more disservice than service.
In the mid-2000s, Kobe Bryant reportedly asked to be traded several times, but rather than adhere to his demands they instead built the team around him, traded for Pau Gasol, and went to three more NBA Finals, winning two of them.
In nine seasons Howard has career averages of 18.3 points, 12.9 rebounds, and 2.2 blocks. He’s led the league in rebounds five times and blocks twice, while winning three straight Defensive Player of the Year awards, and making seven consecutive All-Star Game appearances.
On paper all of those accomplishments would make the loss of Howard a huge letdown. But it’s not. The idea that McHale, one of the best players to work the post, can help Howard tap his potential is a pipe dream.
For most players, once they reach their late 20s they have also hit their ceiling. The likes of Patrick Ewing, Hakeem Olajuwon, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar worked with Howard on his game during his formative years, and he still has no go-to post moves. He clears the glass well for putbacks and alley-oops, but cannot create his own shot.
Each of the aforementioned legends could get their own shot at any time, and did. Waiting for Howard to work in the post would slow down D’Antoni’s system, and at this point is a problem for the Rockets to worry about.
Howard did take the Magic to the NBA Finals back in 2009. But since then his teams have been eliminated in the first round in three of the last four seasons.
His numbers went up when Bryant’s season ended with a torn Achilles tendon, but Howard had the opportunity to show that he could take over the Lakers mantle. Instead L.A. was swept by the San Antonio Spurs in the first round.
Cap Space, Cap Space, Cap Space
This is perhaps the biggest plus for the Lakers. Howard would have cost five years of time and $118 million.
Point guard Steve Nash is the only Laker signed beyond 2014, and he’s making $9 million in his final season of 2014-2015.
The Lakers have a completely blank canvas for general manager Mitch Kupchak to paint over. For all the reasons Howard bucked L.A. (history, sun, marketability) plenty of free agents will sign on. A litany of top talent could also be available in 2014, headlined by LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, and Dwyane Wade.