Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.
Can Dwight Howard and Mike D’Antoni coexist? How?
Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: Maybe those two can co-exist temporarily if Pau Gasol ends up elsewhere and Howard continues as a lone post presence. But long term and big picture, no, I don’t see it. I’m not sure Mike D’Antoni is the championship-caliber coach the Lakers’ legacy ultimately demands and I’m pretty sure Dwight Howard is not up to the job as tent-pole guy for that franchise, either. I still think he’s best suited to a smaller stage — Houston or maybe Atlanta — even if money, ego and preferred distractions have him sticking in L.A. At which point, my guess is, he’s not done burning through head coaches.
Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: The bigger question is can Dwight Howard and any coach co-exist? Until the 27-year-old-going-on-18 big man grows up and takes responsibility for all of the shortcomings in his game and attitude, he and his team(s) will be unfulfilled.
Jeff Caplan, NBA.com: Yes they can. All it takes is for Mike D’Antoni to coach basketball and do so to his players’ strengths, and not force feed an inflexible style. Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak might have to move Pau Gasol (which won’t make Kobe Bryant happy) to give Dwight full control of the paint, as well as add a knockdown shooter or two to help free him up down low. If the Lakers want Dwight to be “The Man” for years to come, then it’s time to start making him the center of attention. Just not sure D’Antoni is capable of making such a commitment. And if he’s not then why’s he still the coach of this team?
Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: I give it a resounding “Probably.” Because they have to. It is based on the premise that Howard re-signs, of course, at which point they’ll have no other choice. Howard will want to fulfill his contract until he starts to angle for a trade and D’Antoni will want to keep his job. The coach, now with the benefit of time and a training camp that did not exist when he first arrived, will make tweaks to place the player more at the forefront. Howard will like that.
John Schuhmann, NBA.com: They should be able to, because Howard really is a great fit for D’Antoni’s offense if he’s willing to run a lot more pick-and-rolls than post-ups, if Steve Nash is healthy (because he’s the guy who’s going to get Howard the ball), and if the Lakers acquire some more shooting to spread the floor. Of course, I wonder more about D’Antoni’s ability to get his team to defend consistently more than I wonder about his relationship with Howard.
Sekou Smith, NBA.com: Sure they can. And it’s called sucking it up and doing your damn job. I can think of $30 million reasons why Dwight Howard should be willing to give it a try. The reality is people go to work every day and work their tails off with co-workers and bosses they don’t like because it’s the professional thing to do. Howard needs to get with the program and put whatever issues he might have with D’Antoni and anyone else and do the job he’s being paid to do. It’s not like D’Antoni treated him the way he treated Pau Gasol this season. If D’Antoni is his excuse for not sticking around with the Lakers, then Dwight is every bit of the Dwightmare his critics make him out to be. I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt for the next six weeks. But we’ll see what happens July 1.
Hanson Guan, NBA.com/china: There’s no room for a traditional center under Mike D’Antoni’s system. Even if the Lakers had made their way into the playoffs, it wouldn’t have helped solve the problem between D’Antoni and Dwight Howard. It’s inevitable that they’ve had trouble working together, while the relationship between Dwight and Kobe Bryant hasn’t been what it was thought to be. Dwight’s personality and playing style mean he shouldn’t play under D’Antoni.
Eduardo Schell, NBA.com/spain: Two ways of building a team: you sign the appropriate players according to the coach’s playing style or you sign the appropriate coach according to the already existing players. So it was quite astonishing when the Lakers signed D’Antoni, having two big dominant guys like Pau and Dwight on the roster. At the end, D’Antoni changed his style somewhat with the Lakers’ backs to the wall, and for sure DH can play with MD with a healthy Nash as point guard. But I doubt the Lakers can really take advantage of PG+DH if MD stays true to his original basketball playing style.
Stefanos Triantafyllos, NBA.com/greece: We have to be fair with Dwight Howard. It was a tough season for him, as he struggled after his back surgery. I think that he was never at the level he was playing in his years in Orlando. So, we must not rush to conclusion. After all, it’s not his fault that the Lakers lacked good chemistry and offensive balance. Now it’s the time to figure out if they want to support their guy in the middle, by adding the right pieces around him: slashers than can feed him in the lane or forwards capable of stretching the floor. As to whether he can work with coach D’ Antoni? When it comes to winning, everybody has to make a step back for the team’s good. So if the Lakers want to return to the league’s elite they have to have a healthy Kobe, less talking and more playing. Coaches coach and players play. D’ Antoni and Howard have proven than they can do their job right.