Do we have another Dwightmare on our hands? ESPN Los Angeles reports that while the Los Angeles Lakers believe they have a strong chance of re-signing Dwight Howard this offseason, they may consider moving him due to his growing unhappiness with head coach Mike D'Antoni.
The report states that the Lakers have fielded multiple trade inquiries for Howard, but have obviously rejected all of them. Howard has not publicly stated that he would sign elsewhere when he becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1, but he has recently hinted that he's not comfortable with his role in D'Antoni's system. If things do not improve, there's a chance that he could move on.
Lakes general manager Mitch Kupchak says a trade is not coming in the near future:
"I don't think we're at the point where you say, 'It's time for a trade,' and a trade happens in three to four days. That's just not how this league works," Kupchak said in a phone interview with ESPN.
Howard caused a big fuss in Orlando before the Magic finally traded him to Los Angeles in a four-way blockbuster deal in August. The big man did not sign an immediate extension with the Lakers because stipulations in the new CBA make it more financially advantageous to wait until free agency to re-sign with the team. Many figured that would not be an issue considering the expected success of the Lakers, but with this season going haywire, uncertainty has settled in.
Howard himself has been up-and-down. His averages of 17.1 points and 12.3 rebounds are almost on par with his career averages, and he's shooting a stellar 58.2 percent from the field. But it's apparent that his back injury has robbed him of some of his explosiveness, which has hurt him on both ends of the floor. There have been times where it simply looks like he's giving minimal effort, and it's hard to tell whether that really is the case or if it's the back bothering him.
Furthermore, Howard and several others have reportedly "soured" on D'Antoni's offense. The Lakers hired D'Antoni with the idea that Howard and Steve Nash could run a dominant pick-and-roll game together. The offense has actually had quite a bit of success, but Howard and Nash have not been able to find a consistent chemistry on the pick-and-roll. Pau Gasol's effectiveness has also taken a big hit, and the fact that he and Howard have not figured out how to play together is a pretty large problem. D'Antoni recently moved Gasol to the bench in hopes of getting more out of the Spaniard at the center position.
Several Lakers, including Howard, would rather slow the tempo and run a more inside-out game that takes advantage of the talented bigs. While does that make some sense, it also seems clear that offense is not the main problem in Los Angeles. The Lakers are still near the top of the league in scoring. If they do not focus on improving on the defensive end of the floor, all this talk about changing the offense is irrelevant. Although maybe changing the offense to cater to Howard means he stays.
Welcome to Dwightmare Part Deux.