Howard Smith-US PRESSWIRE
Once again, Dwight to Dallas rumors are heating up which is so delightful I don't want to tear my eyes out at all. So let's talk about this, I'm sure, NOT for the last time. Alas.
This is the best possible column to write, by the way, where if I'm horrifically, embarrassingly wrong, it's really good news. Keep that in mind, aspiring scribes.But, unfortunately, I feel good about being right.
There are glass half-full, and glass half-empty people in the world. I'm not telling you how to live your life, I myself am often a bit of what is colloquially referred to as a "negative, extremely handsome Nellie"...but optimistic people are happier people. Obviously.
Still, in terms of projecting the future, the problem comes when you add optimism to decisions that have yet to be made. That is, and this is important, when optimism is allowed to infect the decision making process such that the POINT of the process is to maximize unrealized potential, huge, huge mistakes are made.
What I mean in plain English is, imagining that the Mavericks putting themselves in a position with the most flexibility, that is, the most cash to spend and draft picks to use, is a sure cure for what ails them is a delusion so great you might as well just call yourself Napoleon and get it over with. This isn't a hard math problem. Once Dirk declines too much to be a Mavericks star, the Mavericks will be worse than they are now. To be better than they are now, they'd need someone better than Dirk.
Since they've never achieved that any other time in their 33 year history, imagining that they're going to, instead of, oh I don't know, being bad for a while after Dirk, is what we call wildly optimistic. And since that team won all of one championship, they'll probably want to do better.
To be abundantly clear, if doing better than that were something good planning would achieve, everyone would achieve it. Since it doesn't, a total of 10 franchises have won an NBA title since 1980.
These optimists imagine that given cap space and draft picks the Mavs will be masters of their destiny. But the thing is, even that wild, unbridled optimism has its limits.People may be able to imagine that the potential encapsulated in money and draft picks will be fully, brilliantly realized, not in (former #1 pick) Andrea Bargnanis and (one time big free agent splash) Joe Johnsons, but in LeBron James' and Dwight Howards.
But---and this is important---even that kind of complete delusion has its limits. That is, sure, we might think momentarily giving up on the Dirk years is a good idea in hopes of rebooting quickly enough to maybe still win with Dirk, if not, to start the process of rebuilding early, rebuilding, that magic word, that word full of huge free agent splashes and enormous young talent---
But only because Dirk is getting older. Only because Dirk has already scaled the mountain, achieved the dream we all had for him and us, and will be able, as we will be able, to retire in peace when that time comes with one super glittery finger.
We could not do it if that centerpiece were, instead of a 34-year old guy with a ring, a 27-year old all-world center.
Do you think the Lakers are thinking of blowing it up and rebuilding? Of course not. That is insane. The imagination gives up.
Because Dwight Howard is the reason teams rebuild. Seriously. Yes, you could almost imagine better things than an aging Dirk, especially if the cavalry doesn't look like it's coming in time for him not to be a 37-year old Dirk, trying to get it done. But you can't imagine doing better than Dwight Howard unless it's LeBron James or Kevin Durant.
What's the point of draft picks if not to draft a Dwight Howard? What's the point of free agent cash if you're not going to spend it on a Dwight Howard? What are you going to get? A unicorn who cures cancer?
If you're not doing this for a young stud, there's no point in doing this. Yes, the Lakers have literally 100 million in salaries this year and 78 million committed next year before they re-sign Dwight. But did you know they have only 9.7 million committed in 2014-2015? Really, rather than money issues being the reason they don't make a full commitment to Dwight in the offseason, they're kind of the reason they should. 78 million next year WITHOUT Dwight? They can't possibly get enough cap space to do anything useful anyway or even imagine getting under the cap.
I mean would you really rather blow up a team to have some flexibility to sign non-Dwight-Howard free agent A and more or less nothing else, or not worry about it for a year and have Dwight Howard. No brainer, right? They sign Dwight, go up to 100 million again for one year and start 2014-2015 with Dwight, one more year of Nash, and huge handfuls of cap space.
So, yes, Dwight is going to get a full offer from the Lakers. The only reason that he wouldn't be a Laker, then, is that he doesn't want to be. And if anyone thinks Dwight wants to be anywhere other than a place where all eyes are on him at all time, if you think Dwight isn't looking forward to the day when he's king of Laker-land, you haven't been paying much attention to Dwight.
And if you think the Lakers aren't 100% focused on doing what Dwight wants, you forget they broke up a team that had just EASILY THREE-PEATED in order to keep their young star over their aging centerpiece just a decade ago.
To conclude: There is nothing the Lakers could get by trading Dwight, or letting Dwight go, that would be better than having Dwight. There is nothing the Lakers won't do, that is in their power, to keep their young star even at the expense of their old star, as they have already proven not so long ago. There is nothing that would please Dwight so much as a decade of being stroked and petted, Kobe-Style, as the king of Laker land.
And as for him being eager to leave a 17-24 team for an 18-24 team or for his other rumored destination, Atlanta, currently a 23-18 Eastern Conference team (the Western equivalent of being 15-26), whose star player just happens to play Dwight's position, both much farther out of the limelight...
Dwight leave L.A.? That's unpossible.