Dear Jim Buss and other members of the Lakers leadership:
As a loyal Lakers’ fan of well over 25 years, I am increasingly worried about the rumors coming out of the Staples Center about the Lakers’ thoughts regarding Dwight Howard. Dwight Howard will be an unrestricted free agent on July 1. This letter is my feeble attempt to try to pump some steel in the spine of Lakers’ management. Unlike most of the rest of the NBA franchises, the Lakers are on most players’ wish list when eligible for the NBA draft or free agency. In fact, there is not a long track record of coveted free agents leaving Los Angeles, the last one that I could think of is Trevor Ariza. It is comparable in length to the list of men that have dumped Beyonce or Heidi Klum, extremely short. Ariza has walked several years in the wilderness since leaving Los Angeles in addition to missing out on another championship ring which was won the year after he left. I can imagine that you all were not willing to match Houston’s 5-year, $33M offer for Ariza’s services, especially after acquiring Metta World Peace. It was the right call.
The Miami Heat have been basking in the NBA sunshine for the past 3 seasons with 3 straight consecutive trips with the NBA finals. It is easy to see this success and panic as the Lakers’ regular season win totals in the past 3 seasons have been 57, 41 and 45. You all should have the cool vibe of 70s Blaxploitation Legend, John Shaft. For the record, I am not talking about the bootleg Samuel L. Jackson version. I am talking about Richard Roundtree as Shaft. Shaft is one of the coolest brothers ever to grace the screen, cooler than Han Solo, cooler than Captain Kirk, cooler than the Most Interesting Man Alive from the Dos Equis commercials, cooler than everyone except for James Bond. Shaft even had his own Grammy and Oscar Award winning theme song written by Isaac Hayes.
If Dwight won’t sign his max contract extension, then you should do nothing. Give the money to Lenny Kravitz and let him write the franchise a theme song like Shaft’s. Do not do any crazy sign-and-trade deals. Do not follow the Brooklyn Nets model and try to reassamble a 1990s All-Star team (Paul Pierce, Jason Kidd, Kevin Garnett and Jerry Stackhouse). Dwight will have to leave $30M on the table if he chooses not to sign his max extension. He shouldn’t get that max money and then go to hide between James Harden’s shorts in Houston.
If his shoulders are not broad enough to face the pressure of having to deliver all-star caliber play on a nightly basis that is worthy of comparison to the great Lakers centers that have come before him, then he is not Laker material. If he is not Laker material, then there is no max contract for him. As Howard’s brand is somewhat tarnished after the “Indecision” in Orlando and lackluster first year with the Lakers, there is no GM that will give you equal value for him. You will just end up getting back some overpaid humps. Save the money for Summer 2014. Paul George, LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, Luol Deng, Danny Granger, Rudy Gay and John Wall are all free agents. Trust me, you can get one or more of them to sign on the dotted line after a few minutes of Lakers nostalgia and the mandatory VIP tour through Hugh Hefner’s mansion in Los Angeles.
Additionally, the Lakers own their rights to the 2014 NBA 1st round draft pick. The prize of next year’s draft is Andrew Wiggins. Next year is a great year to suck. It worked for San Antonio in 1996-1997, a season in which they only won 20 games. It was a miserable year. Guess what their reward was? The #1 pick in the 1997 draft, Tim Duncan. 16 years and 4 championships later, I will bet Spurs management has a different perspective on that 20 win season. It is the same lesson that every great NFL QB has to learn, sometimes taking a sack on a broken player is a much better option than scrambling wildly away from your protection and risking either serious injury or an interception.
I am a fan of Boardwalk Empire. It is a delicious mix of history, violence, drama and shocking plot twists. One of the most intelligent characters in the show is Arnold Rothstein. It is clear that the writers love this character because he always has witty dialogue. In one season, he was giving advice to main character, Nucky Thompson about his next steps as Nucky found himself caught in a squeeze between local prosecutors looking to convict him on corruption charges and his former associates and brother attempting to assassinate him. Rothstein laid this gem of a line on Thompson as Thompson is pondering his next move.
“I’ve made my living, Mr. Thompson, in large part as a gambler. Some days I make twenty bets, some days I make none. There are weeks, sometimes months, in fact, when I don’t make any bet at all because there is simply no play. So I wait, plan, marshal my resources, and when I finally see an opportunity and there is a bet to make… I bet it all.”
Keep calm. Plan. Marshal your resources. You are the Lakers for crying out loud.