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Do you give a non max player max dollars?

Posted by: SPQR on Apr 29, 2013 - 11:14 PM
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I want to start off by saying this is neither pro-Dwight article nor even an anti-Dwight post. It is an honest look at the ramifications of keeping him or letting him go. It is a look we as fans and more especially the FO needs to take, long and deep, before they decide what they would like to do. Its a look that in light of this last season, they should have, evaluate and discuss, more than once, in an effort to start turning around what happened to this team in 2013 and hopefully make sure the near and mid future is not tainted by more mistakes added to those of the last few years. In the end, I will of course give my opinion for what it is worth. An opinion I actually have changed in just the last day.

With the Lakers season mercifully at an end, now all eyes turn to the offseason and how does this team respond to the calamity that just enveloped them? Will some players stay and who if anyone will go?

Then of course there is the big question, will Dwight Howard resign with the team after a season he himself termed a nightmare?

But perhaps the question shouldnt be, will Dwight resign with the Lakers but instead be inverted to: should the Lakers offer Dwight Howard that max contract?

Prevailing opinion is that Howard will sign with the Lakers, simply because we can offer him the most money. Yet after a season where he never performed up to anyones expectations, there is a train of thought and logic that suggests perhaps it may be best for the Lakers to move in a different direction.

When you think of max money contacts, it brings to the minds eye certain players, legends in fact: Magic Johnson, Jabbar, Moses Malone, Shaq, Hakeem, Kobe, Bird, Jordan, Lebron and others of that ilk. Yes all players with a flaw or two, but whose brilliance and mastery were so great they made you forget any deficiencies of mind or skill set that they may have had. They were so great, all you saw in the end was the greatness. They were max players who deserved max contracts.

But when you put Howards name there, its like taking that word test, Which word does not belong? It is very obvious Howard is the word and the player who is out of his league when you think max player.

Howard does bring a certain skill set we all know. He is a tremendous rebounder and defender. He is very athletic. He certainly is one of the best centers in ball today, probably the best. But when you throw up his flaws you see how he pales in comparison to the players conjured up by the term max player. He cannot shoot free throws. This not only makes him untenable to finish off games but hurts the team all game long. He continually commits stupid fouls. He turns the ball over at an alarming rate. He tends to pout and take plays and even games off if things are not going his way. His offense repertoire is very limited for man in the league so long. It is when you add and sum up all those flaws, you realize if players like Kobe, Kareem, Lebron and others are max players, then Howard has to be by logic and extrapolation something less than that.

There is also another issue with Howard that goes beyond his game limitations. He seems to be devoid of the cool demeanor and killer instinct that goes with being a top notch player, a max player. In our debacle against San Antonio, while I never for a moment thought we could win the series, I was looking for the Kobeless Howard to step up, fight like cornered animal, show us why he is worth the money and the title max player. Yet again, he came up short. He didnt have on transcendent game, not in one game of that series did he look a great player determined to step up against overwhelming odds and go down fighting and throwing his best game at his tormentors, like great players will do. Instead, at the end, meekly, he seemed to take the easy way out, getting a double technical and leaving in the third quarter of last Lakers game of the season with a grand total of seven points. The term max player didnt cross my mind watching that, nor the series, nor his entire year here.

That is the crux of the other Howard problem. Despite his formidable body of work over the years, in the end, it seems his signature move in the NBA is not rising to the occasion but falling back from it, hiding, slipping away; the antithesis of Kobe, a Bird, a Magic, a Jordan, a max player.

Somewhere along the line, in the last few years, it seems LA and its fans somehow equated Dwight Howard as the centerpiece of a title, the sine qua non, the essential part that would ensure more rings. Yet nothing his career indicated that so much weight should ascribed to him, including the nine teams that have won titles in the years Howard has been in the league, all of whom didnt have Dwight on their team. So how did Howard become such an indispensible part of a championship team when he never has been one in his nine years in pro ball? How did that theory take hold and gain such currency with the Lakers fans and front office? Why is HE, above all others, now so vital to us winning championships?

This last season was an object lesson in what happens to a team when the front office places bad bets, when it misunderstands what is smart with what mysteriously becomes commonly accepted currency, such as signing a 38 year old to play point guard in an 82 game season on a team that was too old to begin with.

Now Howard will never be mistaken for a 38 year old, but the cautionary tale still applies: Be careful who you throw that kind of money at. You better be sure he is exactly what you thought you were getting. He better be worth it.

In the end, that begs the most important question of the offseason: Is Dwight Howard really worth it? Does he really bring such a strong promise of championships? Is a non max player really worth max money to this team?

If we sign Howard this team automatically goes over 80 million dollars over the luxury tax. Now considering our TV contract, yes it can afford it. But there is another way to look at this too, two more questions to ask itself: First, is he really worth it? Is he going to bring us so very close to a title? Is he worth max money to keep? Second, if you dont sign him, what else can you do with that money? Can you sign two terrific players with it, or three? Or one and many very good players? In other words, it may not be so difficult to imagine a scenario where in the end the Lakers would be better served, both financially and with on court performance to use such profligate spending in another direction, that it doesnt have to be tied with a ball and chain to Dwight Howard.

Mitch has made it clear he wants Howard back so I take him at his word. That will mean a max contract for a player who far less than max in ability or temperament. Will that be the correct move? The organization better hope, really, really hard that it is. Because if its not, then the damage will go on for longer than you can imagine.

I can see Dwight Howard, if surrounded by two other really good players helping this team to some very good seasons. I cant see him doing it alone, like a max player should. I can also see this team using the Howard money in a different direction and actually being better than if they kept him. That is essence, are the two sides to the question at hand. Which way do you go? Pay a non max player the max and hope you surround with enough good players to overcome his flaws, or go full bore in an entirely different direction.


I do have to say, both from a business standpoint and the on court production ideal, there is something I find repugnant and untenable in signing such a flawed player to a contract I dont think he really should have. Its kind of like being blackmailed or held up at gunpoint. You feel you are being cheated or robbed or hoodwinked. Kobe wants the max? Sure. Magic? Give it up. Lebron? Hand it over, to all of them with a smile. You damn well know what youre getting and are happy to get it: a winner, a killer, a GREAT, a max player. Possible titles. But with Howard? Really? Do you really want to invest that kind of money and the future of your team in him? Not so easy to hand that money over when you really think about him.

There is a danger to get obsessed with doing everything and anything to keep one single player, especially a player who does not stand with the games best but has through desire and circumstance developed a patina that shines far brighter than his true worth. As we have seen this year, before you start to throw money at guys like we just did and apparently are willing to again with Howard, you better be sure your getting what youre paying for or you will pay big time for what you get.

Will Howard be worth that money or will it be just another error rushed into by the front office. It looks like it will end up being Dwight Howard who will have the final answer on that one, both in whether he accepts our offer and what he does after words, if he does.

Just the other day, I agree with a friend of mine that we should sign Dwight Howard. I thought out of all the players on this team, he was the one guy you really wanted to keep. But the other night, Reggie Miller was asked in the waning moments of our game four loss to San Antonio a very interesting question: Would you sign Dwight to the max deal if you were the Lakers? He said he would not, because Dwight wasnt worth it. That got me to thinking, hard. It also got me to change my mind as I turned over the ramifications, the pros and cons of keeping himand letting him go. I have to admit, after what Miller said, after what I have seen this year, plus his career so far, what he brings to the team and what he doesnt, in the end, if I owned the Lakers, Howard would never get that chance to resign with the Lakers. I think there might be, must be, a smarter, better way to spend that money, not just this year, but over time than on a player who has failed in so many ways, on so many days, as Howard has.


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