So the Lakers are done now, stretched out near a beach somewhere, thinking about this summer’s ice cream flavor selection, or roiling in anger from a darkened basement during an Achilles tendon rehabilitation that’s a Greek tragedy, a homeric ode to the “journey,” or simply “stoking the flame.” You can figure out your own desired cliché or aphorism.
Enough of the first round of the playoffs has expired that I feel confident talking about the Lakers without sounding like a blowhard, as I’ve overtly done in the past.
But I really don’t have much to say. They’re gonna try and re-sign Dwight, and that’s probably the most important off-season goal. They can offer him the most money, but I’m not even sure Dwight cares about money as much as he cares about being loved and admired and coddled. Money is nice, but he’s accumulated enough of it—around $83 million plus, in contract money alone—that I wonder if the Lakers’ superior financial offer won’t be couched in the uncomfortable notion he’ll again be under the artificial, fluorescent lights of Los Angeles. And for that last part, it also comes with the caveat (or addendum—it depends on context) of Kobe scrutiny, which Dwight appeared to wilt under when it mattered.
For a man that’s so woefully out of touch, Howard’s almost perfect for Los Angeles, where Doc Sportello, Philip Marlowe and Sam Spade practiced their trade in various grandiloquent narratives, all while under the sheen of the lights still flickering ominously.
The Land of Botox, Real Housewives and Emotive Basketball Fans That Show Up Late To Basketball Games and Leave Early matches up with our ideas of Dwight, the persona. But under all that superficial splendor, there lies a very real basketball following in the Los Angeles area. There are diehard Lakers fans who know the game, despite their inability to exorcise their emotions when watching their team and tweeting. These are the fans who understand that Dwight’s value to a basketball team doesn’t lies in his ability to control the game from the post on the offensive end, or from the frequent trips to the foul line; no, Dwight is a defensive beast, and if he’s not patrolling the paint with gusto and rotating quickly and efficiently to protect the Lakers’ back line, they might as well blow up the whole thing, amnesty Kobe, and rebuild.
This is without even talking about the personal divisions that always seem to exist in a Laker Land controlled by the Tommy Boy-esque direction of Jimmy Buss. The little exchange between Dwight and Mitch or Dwight and a fan, or Dwight and someone in his periphery, who we couldn’t see from the angle above, has led to some justifiable Zapruder film-like analysis.
Is Dwight cursing Mitch out? That would be weird, but not altogether outside the realm of the Dwight we’ve suffered through over the last couple years. First it was Stan, then Mike Brown, now it’s Mike D’Antoni and Mitch with Jimmy Buss as the woefully misguided enabler of this sort of superstar behavior.
I wouldn’t want Dwight on my team. Maybe that’s unfair, but the last two years has left a funky taste on my palette, and he just seems like the antithesis of team, but not in that Jordan or even Monta way. In a league where offensive innovation continues to battle against the Tom Thibodeau strong-side defense of packing the paint, a Full Dwight Effect is an unbelievable commodity, almost guarantees less than 100 points per 100 possessions, but right now—this instant—his prima donna routine isn’t worth it while it continues to be seen whether he can rebound beyond his back surgery last summer.
So whether Dwight just cussed out the Lakers’ primary negotiator for a new max deal this summer (and Howard claimed after the game not to remember it—which—of course), doesn’t change the fact he’s damaged goods, but still goods that are substantial enough in this league, he’ll get offered a max deal by every team with the cap room.
It just remains to be seen whether the Lakers win out on this summer’s tour of Skittles color combination creativity. I’m just happy we can watch the rest of the playoffs without the need to proselytize whatever narrative we’ve chosen for the Lakers this day, this hour, this minute, this second. This is my last one for a while, which is a good thing.