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.
Dwight picked Houston. Did he make the best decision?
Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: Howard made exactly the right decision because, first, it’s the one I’d been urging for him all along. Second — wait, there’s a need for a second? Oh, OK, I’ll reiterate what I’d been saying, that he needed to get back to a big fish/smaller pond situation, because the Lakers, L.A., that team’s legacy and the expectations all were too much for him. Howard also needs a coach like Kevin McHale who can share big-man wisdom and moves, and craft an offense around him. And he’ll be better off as, at 27, a “veteran” on a younger roster, where he can develop some leadership muscles that weren’t needed around Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and other Lakers. I’m impressed that Howard made the best basketball decision for himself, even if it costs him some spotlight and bad sitcom cameos.
Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: Depends what you mean by best. He did leave $30 million in salary on the table, taxes or no taxes. From his own personal standpoint, Howard made the easy decision, which was to leave the pressure of playing in L.A. and the burden of playing with Kobe Bryant. He needs to be loved, hugged, cuddled and coddled and he’ll get all of that in Houston, along with a 23-year-old partner who doesn’t already have five championship rings and a penchant for driving his teammates like they were rented mules. He’s back at the center of his own universe and will once again be happy, until he’s not.
Jeff Caplan, NBA.com: Yeah, I think Dwight made the right decision. These aren’t the Lakers we once knew, from top to bottom. The passing of Dr. Jerry Buss and now with son Jim running the operation, this thing is wobbling badly. Dwight wasn’t buying past titles or promises of future titles and he picked the team best constructed to win now — from top to bottom. The Rockets have solid ownership, a GM who has obviously worked miracles to build a contender and a coach in place that will cater the offense around Dwight, unlike a certain stubborn coach in L.A. some refer to as MDA. Now, would I have liked to have seen Dwight remain in L.A.? Yes. I wanted to see him embrace that challenge. Still, I can’t blame him for fleeing considering the state of dysfunction within a franchise that used to hum.
Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: He did for this week. In a week and three minutes, who knows with Dwight. But Houston is not a bad decision. Another All-Star already in place, a management team that is smart and aggressive and won’t rest with being a good team, a popular place to live among current and former players, and killer BBQ. Oh, and it’s not Los Angeles. Howard couldn’t handle the heat lamps of being a Laker, even with Kobe Bryant and Mike Brown/Mike D’Antoni taking some of the hits. Shaquille O’Neal was wrong about Houston being a small town. But he was right about it not being the Lakers in L.A.
John Schuhmann, NBA.com: I was really intrigued by the possibility of him playing for the Warriors with Steph Curry and Andre Iguodala (with Andrew Bogut and a young piece or two going to L.A. in a sign-and-trade). That would be a Big Three I could really get behind. But I also believe that Houston was the right choice over L.A. The Rockets are better set up to succeed over the next three or four years than the Lakers are. Sure, there is that cap space next summer, but the chances that LeBron James would leave Miami seem slim and Carmelo Anthony isn’t nearly a good enough consolation prize. Starting with James Harden, the Rockets already have (young) pieces in place and there’s no need to wait a year to get started on building toward a championship.
Sekou Smith, NBA.com: Yes. He made the absolute best decision for a guy looking for an escape from the pressures of Los Angeles and the Lakers. Of his suitors, the Rockets checked off the most boxes on Dwight’s wish list. He gets to start fresh with a coach and a fellow superstar he respects, and perhaps most importantly, guys who respect his game. He gets to stay in a big market (sorry Shaq, Houston is no “little town”) and compete for the championship(s) that have eluded him thus far in his career. Howard had prime time opportunities to choose from in every direction. But he followed the path of LeBron James and Chris Bosh and chose to play alongside a contemporary with a like mind (James Harden), one who shares the same ultimate goal, and that’s winning big on his own terms. We won’t find out until the 2013-14 playoffs if Howard made the right decision. But the best, for him … it had to be Houston.
Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: No, Dwight did not make the best decision. Well, perhaps, if we’re talking title chances, because Houston is closer to a ring than the Lakers are, yet to me they’re both behind about five other teams. But I’m thinking money, because like all of us I think about money a lot. And from that standpoint, Dwight left a big chunk of change behind on the table. I know that’s something that should probably be applauded — valuing winning over cash — but this is a guy who’s battled pretty severe injuries and has no time promised to him going forward. I probably would have taken the cash and then somehow made do with living in Beverly Hills.