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Dwight Howard is a Laker. It’ll take some time getting used to saying that. It’ll also take some time getting used to seeing Dwight wear the purple and gold.
But in a way, it just feels right.
After spending eight seasons with the Orlando Magic, you always got the sense that Los Angeles was the next natural progression in Dwight’s career. Not Brooklyn. Orlando and Los Angeles are alike in some ways — warm weather, palm trees, Disney World, and Disneyland. Both cities are located in the Sunshine State. Both cities had Shaq, now Dwight.
The key difference is that Los Angeles is the second-largest media market in the United States (Orlando is 19th by comparison), which fulfills Dwight’s desire to play in a big market. Oh, and the Lakers have Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, and Steve Nash, which fulfills Dwight’s desire to be surrounded by better teammates.
Now it’s time to watch the story unfold. For Dwight’s career, the second act begins.
Magic Basketball concludes Dwight Week by offering a glimpse of what to expect from Dwight in Los Angeles, with Darius Soriano and Phillip Barnett of Forum Blue & Gold as well as Andy Kamenetzky of ESPN Los Angeles sharing their insight.
Fact or Fiction: Dwight is the best player on the Lakers.
Phillip Barnett, Forum Blue & Gold: Fact. Dwight Howard is definitely the league’s best center, but he’s joining an awfully accomplished and talented cast in Los Angeles. There’s no reason Dwight can’t be the Lakers’ best player with his size, athleticism, and youth, but he’ll have to earn the top spot as a Laker with Kobe, Pau, and Nash on the team.
Andy Kamenetzky, ESPN Los Angeles: Fact. Assuming his back cooperates. When healthy, Howard is easily the NBA’s best big man and arguably its second-best player. He’s a defensive force like no other and in every facet. And for all people harp on his unrefined offensive game, he still averaged around 20 points per game the last five seasons, sometimes as the only Magician worth guarding. Bottom line: Dude dominates on both ends.
Darius Soriano, Forum Blue & Gold: Fact. No disrespect to Kobe Bryant, but the combination of Dwight’s positional importance, elite defense, and top level offensive production put him a notch above — even if only a small one — at this point of their respective careers.
Fact or Fiction: With Dwight’s arrival, Los Angeles is the favorite to win the NBA title this season.
Barnett: Fiction. Even with Dwight (and Steve Nash) joining the Lakers, there isn’t any reason to believe that the Miami Heat aren’t still the best basketball team in the world. Bringing in Howard certainly shifts the power a bit more in their favor, but I still have Miami as title favorites with Oklahoma City still in the conversation.
Kamenetzky: Fiction. Ask another day and I could reverse myself. I believe in templates and continuity. Miami has both on its side and should only improve upon breaking through. Even drenched in talent, the Lakers are behind Miami’s eight-ball, so it’s the Heat’s title to lose. Having said that, I’ll take the Lakers to win the West and the gap between these teams isn’t sizable. They could easily emerge as the NBA’s best.
Soriano: Fiction. Until there are actual games played and we can see how the new-look Lakers mesh on the floor, it’s difficult to put them in front of the Heat as the favorites to win it all. Over the course of the season they may evolve into the team to beat, but for now the Heat hold that title.
Fact or Fiction: Dwight will win a championship with the Lakers.
Barnett: Fact. As currently constructed, the Lakers are a team built to win right now. However, even if a title doesn’t come in the next few years, the Lakers are an organization that can, and will, build around Howard and will (probably) eventually win one with Howard joining the pantheon of great Lakers’ centers.
Kamenetzky: Fact. He’ll play at least one season with Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, and Pau Gasol and assuming he re-signs (I’d be very surprised if he doesn’t), that’s 1-2 more years with some/all of those guys on his side. From there, you’ve got the franchise’s track record for titles to bank on. The odds certainly favor Mr. Howard.
Soriano: Faction. Until it’s clear that Howard stays with the Lakers long term, I simply can’t say he’ll win a title in Los Angeles. However, assuming he does stay, I’d argue he gets at least one title in the next few seasons. Remember, even if Kobe retires after his current contract is up, the Lakers will have the cap space to surround Howard and Nash with another max level player to help keep the Lakers a top contender.