LOS ANGELES — If there is a rift between Dwight Howard and Orlando’s hometown newspaper and it somehow leads to Howard’s eye wandering this way come free agency in 2012, basketball fans here in Southern California already have the welcome routine down.
As both Howard, writers at the Orlando Sentinel and anyone else that knows anything about the history of the league have already pointed out, this wouldn’t be the first time a Magic superstar center has packed up and relocated to Hollywood. (Shaquille O’Neal‘s how-to-bolt-and-win-titles-in-LA pamphlet is available on Amazon.com.)
But if something as simple as Howard’s testy tweet from the other day …
Y does it seem like the writers of Orlando sentinel are tryna push me out of Orlando with dumb articles. It’s annoying. Can I enjoy my summer and get ready for next season in Orlando. Pls. Same thing u guys did to Shaq. Smh
… can set off the sort of firestorm that it did, the next 10-12 months will be a living nightmare for Magic fans worried that Howard will bolt for the big stage that this city provides.
Lakers’ fans are licking their wounds after having their three-peat bid swept away by the Dallas Mavericks in the Western Conference semifinals, so they need something to feel good about. They need to believe that bigger and better days are ahead now that the Phil Jackson era is over. They need to believe in the dream of Howard in purple and gold. They need to believe that he is the key to their future.
And make no mistake about it, the buzz is real. People won’t stop talking about him out here. I got into a heated debate yesterday with an L.A. native who insisted that not only does it make sense for Howard to pick up where Shaq left off, but that Howard (like every other player in the league) “loves LA, is interested in buying a house here and wants to be a Laker.”
He believed what he was saying so wholeheartedly that he almost had me convinced that what he said was true.
Howard, in the minds of a lot of people here in Southern California, quite simply is the answer to all of the Lakers’ problems. Granted, Howard is not a free agent until summer 2012. And he made it clear in his tweet that his focus right now (at least) is on Orlando next season.
That hasn’t stopped folks from both coasts, good people like my main man Brian Schmitz of the Sentinel, from stating the painfully obvious (for Magic fans):
What’s worse than the Magic’s season going bust?
The Lakers’ season going bust.
It means the Lakers — 15 years after stealing Shaquille O’Neal from Orlando — are poised to try to swipe another superstar center from the Magic.
This is what they do, historically speaking. (See Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Wilt Chamberlain).
It’s only a matter of which big man the Lakers will offer the Magic for Howard — Pau Gasol or Andrew Bynum. Most likely it is Bynum, considering Gasol is more of a power forward.
The only way they can get Howard, a 2012 free agent, is through a trade. Like the Magic, the Lakers are mortgaged to the hilt, unable to spend money because they are in salary-cap purgatory.
The Magic have no intention of trading Howard unless he asks out and asks to go to a specific team, a la Carmelo Anthony.
If Howard tells them he wants to move on to L.A., then the Magic have to consider a deal to receive compensation, and you could do worse than, say, Bynum.
As they head for summer vacation earlier than usual, to a man the Lakers have spoken about their mystique losing some of its luster. You don’t get blown out the way they did by the Mavericks and not lose a little something.
“Teams have lost that fear in relation to us,” Gasol said. “They lost that respect, and I think sometimes we haven’t earned it.”
Howard in a Lakers jersey alongside Gasol, Kobe Bryant, Lamar Odom and Ron Artest would change that in a heartbeat.
So what if it’s just a fantasy for Lakers’ fans, and a nightmare for Magic fans, right now.