A Howard trade was always inevitable. And it finally happened. But to the wrong team.
Dwight Howard to the Lakers is now official, and all the Los Angeles Lakers had to give up at the end of the day was Andrew Bynum and picks, confirming that yes, in fact, they are the luckiest franchise in the history of the world. The last couple years it's been an absolute blast rooting against the Lake Show as they ran into the postseason buzzsaws that were the '11 Mavericks and '12 Thunder. Well cherish those days, folks, because they might be over for a while.
It was only a few months ago that Mitch Kupchak was getting hammered for going to war with an old, overpaid team with seemingly no way of getting better. The deal for Ramon Sessions was actually considered a big transaction for him at the time.
That seems utterly laughable now, with the Lakers having constructed an incredible juggernaut in the span of a little over a month, and at such ridiculously low cost, remembering that Steve Nash was acquired to fit into the Lamar Odom trade exception (courtesy of Dallas) for just a few first-rounders. L.A., now, is at minimum the Western Conference co-favorite alongside Oklahoma City, if not ahead of them. Sure, they're still ancient and slow in the backcourt, but Nash's transcendent ability as an offensive distributor combined with Dwight Howard's dominance on the defensive end should give every team in the league, including Miami, nightmares.
This should sting mightily for the Mavericks. As I've written earlier, Deron Williams is a phenomenal talent, but his addition wouldn't have elevated the Mavericks to immediate contention and a maximum contract spent on him is nowhere near as good a bargain as one spent on Howard. Of all the guys available in the near future who could make Dirk our "second best player," as Donnie Nelson has said many times, he was the one circled, highlighted, and flagged on the board. There's no doubt that Dallas will still try and pursue him hard in 2013 - as Howard has said he will test unrestricted free agency - but with his wealth of Hall-of-Fame teammates, adoring Lakers fans, higher contract length, and the general allure of Southern California, I wouldn't bet a dime that he leaves.
The dream that Mark Cuban could let Tyson Chandler walk, break up the rest of the band, pursue one-year deals, and still hit a home run appears to have ended. The truth is that it's very, very hard to see a realistic way for the Mavs to be championship contenders anytime soon. But that's okay. We don't have to be able to see things to know they're possible. There are still other shots to be taken, trades to unexpectedly pop up, and players to emerge from obscurity. Things never stop happening in the National Basketball Association. And the pendulum of luck or chance or opportunity, whatever pendulum has eluded us since our glorious coronation, will eventually swing back in our direction. Cuban and Nelson are no doubt aware and ready for this, so don't fret too much about our luck.