It’s too early to call “pass” or “fail” on the Howard experiment that the Lakers ran with this summer. Less than a season in, plagued by a nagging injury from the start, the most dominant big man in the game today barely had a chance to stamp his presence on L.A. Yet, this Sunday game against the Mavs somehow feels like a culmination of this drama, and depending on which Dwight we see tomorrow, may determine his “legacy” on one of the most storied franchises in the sport.
Marc Cuban is lobbying, he is lobbying hard. He wants Dwight in Dallas and he has said so. His team was in the select group of three courting the dissatisfied superstar this summer, and they lost. Now he’s back and he wants Dwight to know that the doors are wide open. Yes, the Mavs are almost out of playoff contention this year, but they remain confident to secure the Center’s services. From the big intention down to the smaller statements like signing Anthony Morrow (who Dwight once mentioned he wanted to play with, in passing).
This Sunday, Dallas will open their arms once again and try to showcase exactly why Superman should consider Texas. The same week LA have made their play. And a much more enticing one at that.
Kobe will be Kobe, and Dwight might have trouble running along side a Laker legend, but the days of number 24 are drawing to a close and then someone must take the reigns. That is exactly the sentiment Mitch Kupchak voiced when he committed to Dwight, he opened the doors. He suggested that perhaps, even the number 12 may once be immortalized alongside the greats. That was the rhetoric this week.
It took a tragic event, but Dwight might actually be waking up to what his future in LA may look like. When the team’s greats past and present paid respect to the great late Dr. Buss, Dwight was surrounded by some of NBA’s royalty. Magic, Kareem, Shaq… The names that will rest in the annals of NBA history.
What followed were two of the more inspired performances we’ve seen from the big man the whole season. First, a monster effort against the Celtics, then an impressive showing against the Blazers, made better by the fact that he played through pain, finally committing to the team fully. Dwight seems to have arrived.
For all the bad press LA gets, this is the team that offers Dwight something not many other franchises in the NBA do. To be a part of a vision greater than the current generation of players. To have his name besides some of the games greats. To own a team that for so long has owned the league (on and off). Not every day does a player get that chance, and not every day a player refuses it.
Dwight seems to be back, he seems to be focused and playing great. Whether or not him and Kobe will ever reconcile completely, will never be know, but that’s just Kobe, that’s his competitive spirit. Dwight can almost see behind the curve, when Bryant is gone and the cape has to go down to someone. Who may be a worthier successor than someone who calls himself Superman?
Sure, Dallas offers a different kind of life, and it’s still a chance to be a legacy big-man for a franchise. But the implications are much smaller than they are in L.A. This, in many ways, is the hub of the game. Few arenas are as iconic as the Staples Center. Few stages are as grand.
It all comes down to tomorrow. Which Dwight shows up. The dominant big man ready to take his place along side the greats of a franchise, or a resigned one, ready to wash off the experiment and try again in a different city. All chips are on the table, it is time to see the play.