For Better or Worse, The Lakers’ Stage Now Belongs To Dwight

 

Yo Dwight, you got now.

It’s a case of can’t live with him, but can he live without him? For Los Angeles Lakers big man Dwight Howard, who has often felt like Kobe Bryant’s picked-on little brother in his first season in Lakerland, this baffling year now falls in the palms of his massive hands after Bryant’s devastating Achilles injury Friday night.

Make no mistake as the Lakers quickly move on with no other choice to Sunday’s critical game against the San Antonio Spurs. This is not suddenly the overly cerebral and emotional Pau Gasol’s team nor is it the injured Steve Nash’s job to keep Lakers’ chins ups. The bionic Metta World Peace? Hardly.

We’re about to find out just how much the 27-year-old Howard, L.A.’s hopeful future rock of the franchise, has grown up in the past year, through the scars and lessons of an implausibly wild ride: His never-ending debacle in Orlando, the trade, the back surgery, the firing of Mike Brown, the head-bumping with Mike D’Antoni, the shoulder injury, the death of Jerry Buss, Bryant’s relentless, often backhanded, tutelage, and, of course, all the losing by a team already declared one of the biggest busts in NBA history.

Just two games stand between the Lakers making the playoffs after an arduous climb or descending into a long, uncertain offseason. Immediately the cycle will begin of will-he-stay or will-he-go questions that will hound Howard and the Lakers all the way to the July 1 start of free agency when Howard can hand-pick a team with enough cap space to sign him.

All indications have suggested that Howard seems headed for a long-term stay in L.A., tabbed as the successor to Kobe’s throne once he calls it a career, perhaps as early as after next season as Bryant himself has suggested now on multiple occasions.

How Bryant’s Achilles injury, which could keep him out as little as six months or as long as 12, will affect the Lakers’ immediate playoff hopes will be known in a matter of days. Less certain is Bryant’s availability for next season and ultimately his longevity now 17 years in, and especially how it might alter Howard’s feelings about re-signing under such circumstance.

The latter is impossible to even speculate. Nothing with Howard has ever been what it seems.

And now Bryant’s absence thrusts Howard into the spotlight like never before, even as he smiled through all those years leading that rag-tag bunch as a sole superstar stuck in Orlando. For the remainder of this season, however long it lasts, and, without a doubt, for at least the start of next season if he chooses to stay in Lakers purple and gold, all eyes will be trained on the 6-foot-11, 265-pound man-child.

D’Antoni, whose offense has failed to integrate Gasol and Howard on the low block, will have no choice now but to slow the game up and put the team’s fate in Howard‘s ability to go to work down low.

With Bryant out, Howard is the Lakers’ best player on the floor. If L.A. is going to take the final steps and achieve the satisfaction of having at least scrapped into the playoffs, they’ll need Howard to lift his team and produce like he is indeed the best player on the floor.

The stage is truly his.

81 Comments

  1. sportsfan says:

    The Lakers will get bounced quickly in the first round if they face the Thunder because hey won’t have enough time to develop chemistry without Kobe. If they’re healthy next season then they’ll play very good team ball starting inside out. When Kobe gets back, probably mid-season, they’ll lose their chemistry.

  2. Josh says:

    Even if Dwight Howard steps up the Lakers still wont go very far into the playoffs

  3. deliveredkarma says:

    ….BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAaaaaaaaaaaaaaaHAHAAHWAWAWAWAW WOOOOOOOOOooooooooooooooooUUUUUUWaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaHAHAHAHAHAHAAHAHAHHAHAAHH

  4. True Laker Fan says:

    Yeah! He can handle it.. Him and Pau can Handle all the pressure… DH just needs to have his Confidence back just like when he was still playing in ORL. It would be even great if S.Nash could be back to help dwight o get some more touches.. But for now Dwight can carry the load. He knows how to carry a team and he might just pull through all the drama this season for the lakers. a Horrible Start fot thier team, Dr.Buss died, now Kobe gets injured for the rest of the season. He might just get a little shaken up and realize it’s time for Him to be BIG..

  5. wenggers says:

    this is definitely not their year… and im one HAPPY guy….
    go KNICKS !!!!

  6. Don Deakin says:

    D12 and Gasol now have the chance to demonstrate how effective they can be when the team focus is on the LA big men. When I watch the Lakers, the players I see really put out the effort are mostly the back court. Pau plays at the elbow and makes some sporadic moves to the basket, or draws the double team and gets D12 another dunk. Howard has limited skills with his back to the basket and Pau alone can’t carry the team. If the Lakers bench plays as they have of late, forget play offs. The Lakers can be a good without KB, If D12, Gasolid, Nash and the LA bench play at a high level, every night and for 48 minutes. To bad that won’t happen. The next two games will show everyone how important KB was to the Lakers (MVP) and how wrong D12 and Gasolid are about what KB brings night in and night out.

  7. HAWKS says:

    ive been waiting for this all season

  8. Bruce says:

    steve nash should be the leader of the team…he will be the floor general

  9. Bruce says:

    It will be very interesting to see a team that has steve nash as the main facilitator and that plays through two of the top 5 bigs in the game.

    Those 25 shoots a game kobe takes will now roughly go 7 each for nash, howard and pau…i still think this could be a solid team!

    nash could finally come into his own as the leader of this team on offense without having to worry about acomodating kobe.

  10. Shawn says:

    D Howard has the ability no question, physically. To be a good leader, he has to become a good follower, which to date he has failed miserably. But, we learn from our mistakes. The lakers do not need him to go back to the “Superman” mentality. It takes a team to win a championship. Maybe just maybe, DHoward has learned a little humility? u think? maybe just maybe he will listen to the great Kobe Bryant, as Chauncy leads the Clippers? and just maybe he will realize his potential. maybe he and Pau can develop a one two punch. So, the talent is there. but the lakers dont need a superman. they need a leader… i think with a new coach that can lead, not just the aspects of the games… they can be as good as any. Look at Chicago and the Knicks. ITS ABOUT TEAM WORK!

  11. Anthony says:

    …. and by the way for anyone that thinks Dwight, Pau, Nash, dantoni, or the Dalhi Lama is gonna get a chance to lead this team is out of their mind. Kobe is gonna e on the bench calling every single play.

  12. NBAfan says:

    This is good for D12. If you’re the man, then your job becomes producing the Ws. And when push comes to shove, you go to your best weapons to compete for those Ws.

    Dwight, I know yuo want to score 25 ppg, but you know real well that the path to that stat you’re chasing is your FT shooting. If you are decent, they won’t foul you. If they’re scared to foul you, then you’ll have more options down low. You want the ball more? You want more plays ran for you? Nah, you just need to make your freethrows and everything will come naturally.

    It’s on you now to get the Ws for the Lakers D12. I sure hope you go to your stengths and start dominating the defensive end with rebounds and blocked/altered shots.

    MWP, you can stop taking the back seat and start playing like Ron Artest again. You have too.

  13. Anthony says:

    Lets be real. the only way this so called team was gonna make it to the second round, let alone the playoffs was off the miracles of KOBE Bean Bryant…. DWIGHT CAN lead a team, BUT it must begin on the DEFENSIVE end. hes been saying it all year. there is no defense played on this team…. BECAUSE Antoni doesnt know anything about defense. Thats why dwight has 5 fouls by the first half every game, because hes the only one plying defense, and Kobe is on the other end making miracle shots.

    D12 wanted Phil. thats the only way he wouldve resigned. hell be gone by next season. Phil is the only one that couldve taught him to become a champ. KOBE doesnt have the people skills to do so, unfortunately lol. dwight is still a child

  14. JD Drew says:

    no doubt Lakers can stil make the playoffs. Gasol and Howard step it up and thats all thats needed. Utah meanwhile will grease the rails by losing their remaining games..However the question is do the Lakers want to make the Playoffs? Without their quintessential lynchpin Black Mamba, they will surely struggle.

  15. Tom says:

    Don’t worry Laker fans, the refs will carry you the rest of the way to the playoffs, with or without Kobe.

    “Over the last 10 games LA has become #1 in free-throw advantage and Utah has become #29 after being #12 the whole year.”

    There needs to be a serious inquiry into this if the NBA wants to have even a shred of integrity. One ref vs GS called 19 fouls on the warriors and 0 on the Lakers. People don’t want to watch a rigged league.

  16. Kingster says:

    I think they can still match whoever will be the # 1 seed even without Kobe.

  17. HongKonger says:

    with KB, it’s KB’s team, without KB, it’s real team

  18. Orlando Fan says:

    What do you mean “rag-tag bunch?” From 2006-2012, Howard’s Magic teams made the playoffs, the Eastern Conference Finals twice and the NBA Finals once. This so-called “Super Team” he’s on now is on the verge of being eliminated from playoff contention. Think before you speak, or in this case, write.

    • Dr C.Goode says:

      Hahaha an indignant Orlando fan! You don’t think they were rag tag? Just look at them before he arrived and after he left. They’re headed towards having the same pathetic 21-61 record in the season before he arrived and the season after he left!
      Anyway Dwight knows his number 12 will one day be hanging from the Staples center rafters alongside all the great champions who ever put on a Lakers uniform. Perhaps Orlando can look at retiring another number in honor of the fans, it’s about as close they’ll get to retiring a real players number!

  19. purpleNgold says:

    the best way is Dwight and Pau must dominate the the last 2 games in their regular season we know that kobe was out and also their bench must produce some quality minutes, and also they will test their through character to play team ball, as for Dwight it’s time to prove himself as a best defender not a dwightmare drama, for pau it’s time to show his through form.

  20. mark czar says:

    Without Kobe, now the Lakers are dangerous, now the Lakers are going to be a team, now the Lakers will have more shooting options, now the Lakers, and least… now the Lakers can make the playoffs.

    It is for the better of that team, and you’ll see it.

  21. j-head says:

    Kobe’s injury will probably be good for Lakers team ball in the long run, but they have virtually no experience right now playing together without Kobe on the floor for most of the game. And b/c of Kobe, D’Antoni was able to resist changing his philosophy, despite playing with older and slower players and big men that don’t run and gun. I just wish they would listen to each other more often instead of blaming each other after every botched defensive rotation (which happens too much) and every turnover in which Dwight or Gasol didn’t get “their” touches. If David Robinson and Tim Duncan could learn how to play together there’s no reason why D12 and pau can’t. Until they get their offense established the role players won’t settle into their shots, and Steve will continue to be a non-factor. I don’t know if it’s a question of one of them “taking over” Kobe’s role — they have to learn how to work with each other period.

  22. Jowellchua says:

    Now im sure that the lakers will be better without that kobe, all season long the failure of this lakers is because of that kobe. the so-called superteam, how can dwight improves wherein a kobe takes 30 shots while dwight takes or have touches less than 10 times? the rest of team takes less shots than that kobe. then when they lose kobe blames dwight, gasol and everyone.

  23. Amos says:

    Maybe it is the time to see how DH lead this team to playoff without kobe.

  24. takuto says:

    If Pau and Dwight play like the twin towers of the Duncan-Robinson Spurs days, the Lakers can still contend. The problem will be at the guard positions. If Nash can drink a youth potion and play like his former self of the Stoudamire-Nash Phoenix days, I can see a very strong 8th-seed.

  25. Pietro says:

    I prefer trust in Pau, and in Nash…Both of them are more mature to lead the Lakers in the playoffs…

  26. Lakers says:

    Everyone keeps saying how bad there lakers are, but since the start of feb they have gone 23-11, which if they were on that pace for the whole season the would’ve finished the season about 55-27 which would prob only be 1 game or 2 out of 3rd place in the west and the main reason for this has been kobe, I think they can still do ok in the playoffs, they just need to get Nash back and Dwight needs to stop being so lazy, he lets players get offensive rebounds against him that shouldn’t ever be able to get even close, they just need to be a lot more aggressive , they will miss kobe so much but I still think they can make some waves in the playoffs

  27. AAA says:

    It is such a pity to lose great players to injury . Kobe has provided an entertaining season and it is sad to see him go down before the playoffs, get well Kobe .
    I hope we may see D-Rose in the playoffs atleast .

  28. Soltero32 says:

    Gasol was the franchise player of a little team like Memphis, putting them in the playoff with 50wins. Dwight offensively is nothing. Without Kobe, the best one out there is Pau, he can be a 25-10-5 player if he is the first option. Nash and Pau are the key now running the offense, Howard will have to put the deffense. We will see.

  29. JAZZMAN says:

    Over the last 10 games LA has become #1 in free-throw advantage and Utah has become #29 after being #12 the whole year.

    Don’t worry Laker fans, Stern’s got your back.

  30. Tiger says:

    This is now Pau’s team until Dwight proves himself.

  31. Nicholas says:

    “…all eyes will be trained on the 6-foot-11, 265-pound man-child.”

    Correction… At 27 years old, Dwight’s no a man-child; more childish man (perhaps!).

  32. Jayjoe14 says:

    Dwight will carry the Lakers up to finals and win it all the way, and Kobe will have his 6th ring on the bench.

  33. uoykcuf says:

    Yes, now is the chance for Lakers to play team ball (finally). shall I say OKC vs Lakers at west finals?

  34. lalameo says:

    What are you saying? D12 to carry a team offensively? Come on, with no Kobe, Nash and Pau will rule the offense and they certainly can do it pretty well.

  35. Mike says:

    bleed purple and gold

  36. Nandan Raghavan says:

    I feel so bad for Steve Nash. After all the hard work that he has put in, he still cannot get a ring.

  37. Andre says:

    it’s an absurd to say that Orlando had only Dwight playing well !!!!!
    Now he has the chance of seeing more of the ball…only this !

  38. Beavis says:

    FIRE MIKE DANTONI

    how does a respectable coach let a player like kobe play himself into the dirt?

    and before you say it was kobe’s decision (which yes it partially was) Remember how small Dantoni’s rotation has been the 2nd half of this season.

    LA needs to lynch “no D” Dantoni.

  39. AdriLaker84 says:

    Are u kidding me? With Kobe out, Pau is the 2nd best player OVER DWIGHT (YEAH, I’M NOT CRAZY). He will carry with the weight of this team for win the last spot for the playoffs. Dwight is not the franchise player for a team like LA Lakers, maybe Orlando Magic but not Lakers.

  40. Savannah says:

    Dwight has never with stood pressure well. . .what makes anyone think he will now?! I would not rebuild around Dwight, he has never proven himself worthy. The Lakers will figure out a way, they always do, and be back as contenders in the next 2-3 years, let’s not forget, LBJ, Dwayne, and Bosh will have to split up in a few years as the new rules were built in such a way to disperse the superstars more evenly. There is always hope in LALALAND with the Busses running the show!

  41. Matej says:

    I think Lakers need to start a rebuild mode next season…they should start picking more 1st round in draft, not in the 2nd round..they need some fresh young players to bring younger franchise in team…what about coach? Instead of hiring Mike D`Antoni, they should bring back Phill Jackson

  42. Truth says:

    TRUTH needs to be said FINALLY, PAU GASOL is the one that Always has saved LAKERS from a loss. With all the injuries that Gasol has and still be up and playing, and still not be acknowledged for that, is just a shame. Without Gasol Lakers would not be even fighting right now to get to the play-offs because they would be close to being last on a list of teams. I hope Gasol will realize that LAKERS don’t care about him, his health and career as a player at all and will decide to go to a team that he truly deserves to be in.

    As to DWIGHT-MARE, there should not be these kind of ignorance stories to true NBA fans on NBA blog that should reflect the honest and real happenings and credit the true players that deserve to be credited.

  43. Spire says:

    Howard? Is this article a joke? Pau is the better leader for the team. Howard just needs to sit back and play defense. He won’t do anything offensively. Howard is nowhere near the level a franchise player should be so people need to stop talking as if he is a franchise player. Anyways, Pau has always played well, Nash is always consistent. Lakers have a shot for the playoffs, but it won’t be because of Dwight.

  44. Peter says:

    l.A can win the next Gáme without kobe; come on los ángeles

  45. Matt says:

    I hope Dwight goes into full beast mode. That way he wins us the last two games and the playoffs as well as get a taste of what it will be like after the Kobe era. Hopefully this will make him want to re-sign long term with the Lakers and then we’re set for the future. LAKERS UP!!

  46. Michael says:

    Even if Kobe Bryant still plays without injury…the truth is LAKERS still struggling…as well as making it to the 8 spot.

    How bout without Kobe?…there is no way they can win a single match during playoffs.

  47. Ramez says:

    If LA gets into the playoffs it wont be kobe looking bad or howard lookin good it will be only for the fact that dantony connot play offense mentality they need to slow the game down force double teams and find the open man and use energy on the defencive end not the offence. This team healthy should never lose a game if the tempo is slowed down to a pace where the other team is forced to play much harder defence. LA gives the other team a cake walk on one end and they run around them in circles at the other.

  48. Aditya says:

    lakers will play excellent basketball with out Kobe and go far or i will be extremely set. its sadddddd for him to get injured baddddly.

  49. sportsfan says:

    With Kobe now out the Lakers will play more team ball. If they make the playoffs they might actually do better without Kobe. If they go all the way & win the championship then that’d be complete irony.

  50. Aditya says:

    he lakers also needs to be dominant in the playoffs or i will be extremely upset.we have to go for the title this season
    Lakers will win the title and win the rest of the games to finnish the season or i will be extremely upset. i watch others teams too. i cheer very very loudly. i watch every lakers game. i am a die hard lakers fan.
    when the lakers are loosing and are not playing well during the game i also get extremely upset. i celebrate when lakers win the title and maybe playoff series.

  51. Angel says:

    What you talking about?? Yeah, Dwight could step forward but….. please don´t underrate Pau like that!! He put Grizz with 50´s with a roster lower than this one. He slowed D12 in his Finals attempt… Stepped up agains KG in those final minutes…. Come on!!! He has been out such a long time with his phisical problems and, whoo… look those 4 games….this 3pD!! It´s not fair…. It´s a team game and everyone should do what is mean to. So, D12 has to be the beast we searching for….nash…mmmm…..nash…….well, please, nash, we need half of that stevie at the court…. and let´s see if MWP, Earl, and Jamison (don´t know if they are ok…), to increase those numbers…but, Pau will give and answer if all of them ask for it.. Sure of that!!

  52. Asap stoak23 says:

    Nobody can compare Dwight to Kobe. But you can’t put the pressure on one man. That was the case for Kobe, but he’s a legend, and he’s one of the only players that can do that. Now, its not up to one man, it’s up to one team. The Lakers have to keep it together to go through the playoffs, or even get in. Now we have to wait for Kobe’s now cut shorter career.
    #GETBETTERKOBE!!

  53. elt says:

    howard is no the type of player that will help u win a title when it comes down to crunch time to shoot free throws he is a great liability it is proven thourgh out his career. have u seen howard miss 2 free throws in the finals(he needed one to ice the game) u should not build around him trust me.

  54. Jose says:

    Honestly, May Howard be the best player, now, in LA or not, he, by himself won’t be able to lift the team to playoffs. Gasol, and not only Gasol will be instrumental as well. And don’t think match against Spurs is, for sure, the important. Still they could beat Houston and Utah losts to Menphis. This is what I think will more likely happen.

  55. CATAS says:

    What else can go wrong for my lakers… only missing the playoffs.. HOWARD.. STEP UP FOR US MAN. KOBE’S DOWN AFTER PUTTING THE TEAM IN POSITION WITH 8 POINTS… AND TYING.. U GUYS CLEANED IT UP.. NOW GO TO THE POST SEASON AND BE THE BIG MAN WE KNOW U ARE AND WANTED!!! #LAKERS!!

  56. Anthony says:

    maybe if nash comes back things will run a little smoother with a real pg distributing instead of Kobe. Nash could never get in rhythm with Kobe playing like Russel Westbrook in OKC this year. Kobe and nash just dont mix both players need to have the ball.

  57. Raphajiujitsu says:

    I feel bad for Kobe, but as a Magic fan I really don’t want to see the lakers making the playoffs. When howard left Orlando he said that he wanted to join a team that could win now. well, ain’t that a b**Ch……

  58. SoulChorea says:

    Dwight is so happy right now; I guarantee it. He’s glad Kobe’s out of his way, just like Kob’ was glad when Shaq was out of his way. I predict he’s suddenly going to start playing like the old Dwight Howard, just so people can be like “ohhh, it was Kobe’s fault all along” lol

  59. AK says:

    Actually Pau and Nash will carry the load offensively.

  60. Lakers 4 ever says:

    Howard is playing much better now, I am positive that he will play great. Take the Lakers into the playoffs and hopefully beyond.

    • lakersfan4ever says:

      To all the Lakers haters, your teams are going to be school By all the Lakers players, they are going to make Kobe proud and they will make the rest of this season for Kobe, watch out OKC or Spurs. in the 1st round. GOOOO LAAAAAKEEEERSSSSS.
      Get well soon KB24.

  61. W/E says:

    D12 will leave LA this summer, this year was the beggining of the end, the Lakers will be non factors for the next decade they are done, RIP lakers.

  62. Lil' K1ng says:

    Let’s go D! Time to go BEAST MODE to get this team to the playoffs. It’s you and the Lakers. You got this!.. KB get well soon. Prayers

  63. jill says:

    GO AHEAD DWIGHT. THE TEAM IS YOURS. SHOW LA WHAT YOU CAN DO. NO MORE NEGATIVISM OR CRITICISM. JUST PLAY HARD AND TAKE CARE OF YOUR BODY. GOAL 1: PLAYOFFS. GOAL 2: SECOND ROUND AND PERIOD. YOU HAVE DEMONSTRATED THAT YOU ARE IN LA FOR A REASON. NEXT YEAR WE’LL HAVE A SHOT TO THE CHAMPIONSHIP.

  64. chandler says:

    they will lose tomorow against SA, the jazz win monday and wednesday and they get it. simple as that

  65. jonathan says:

    the reporter says dwight is “freakishly competitive”?? NO WAY. kobe’s injury is karma for lakers having refs give lakers calls in their favor

    • STUPID says:

      enough said
      no hate on kobe but for nba. The fix was too obvious and they deserve the karma
      that is the last thing i want to happen to kobe. he should have retire instead

  66. cesar says:

    Home of the Lakers Baby ! Whoooo

  67. Celtics says:

    If the Lakers can pull it together with any maturity, OKC may have a series on their hands. They now have a martyr and a superstar with an axe to grind. What’ll it be Howard? What’ll it be?

  68. CELTICFORLIFE says:

    Lakers are done.. enough said.

  69. Patty says:

    Mr. Jeff Caplan, There is no player like Mr. Kobe Bryant. He cannot be replace. Diwight Howard is no Kobe Bryant.

    THE LAKER’s STAGE is not Diwight Howard it is Mr. Kobe Bryant. Please donot ever forget that.

    • Random Guy says:

      He’s not LITERALLY SAYING that Howard has the spotlight FOREVER. I mean, just looking at this very turbulent season for the Lakers, and after probably the most devastating injury this season, all his trying to say is that the spotlight is on Howard: All the pressure of delivering, all the expectations, all the workload Bryant did, it will all be focused on HIM.

      While I do understand your point, be reminded though that Kobe is out for the rest of the season, and probably, 1/3 of next season. Yeah you’re right! Kobe Bryant is Kobe Bryant. Dwight Howard is no Kobe Bryant. But that’s not the whole point of this article. The point of this is that if Howard will be ready to shoulder the load that Kobe has been carrying all season long. And we’re gonna see what he’s made of in the final 2 games of the season.

    • Ease up.. says:

      Wow, seriously? So stuck up on Bryant… The facts of the article is Kobe being out and Dwight taking more responsibility. This is actually a good thing for the Lakers, with the recent system of D’Antoni not integrating the two big mans and focusing on an aging Nash. If they can get it rolling with a Dwight and Gasol focused offense, then it would be easy pickings when Kobe gets back.

  70. Adam says:

    This is why D12 was brought to LA in the first place, in 2009 he proved he could be a franchise player.

  71. Pau says:

    I would put the responsibility on Pau Gasol. It would be good for his confidence and he has played really well recently (triple double, etc…)