Heisler: What if Lakers’ next guy isn’t Dwight or DWill but n-n-n-o-b-o-d-y?

Jerry Buss is playing a different brand of poker with the Lakers

LOS ANGELES – I just wrote a piece for LakersNation announcing the Lakes’ should get Deron Williams, rather than Dwight Howard.

(For fans outside Lakerdom, gleeful at the prospect of decrepitude finishing off the Lakes, LakersNation is not a suicide prevention hotline, but a fan site.)

Unfortunately, there’s another scenario which I went kind of light on, as in, forgot to account for:

What if the Lakers’ guy is n-n-n-nobody?

If Lakerdom hasn’t fallen into the sea, or suffered any of the other cataclysms I’ve thrown out recently, things aren’t going so well, grand, design-wise.

They get Chris Paul. David Stern takes Paul back.

Everyone assumes the Lakes will get someone great at the trade deadline. I’m right there with them, or leading the parade.

On the other hand….

What if Dwight still wants to go to New Jersey, toxic as it looks now, to play alongside Williams?

Those of us who aren’t from there tend to think of it in terms of that keeping-it-real intro from “The Sopranos,” but the team is headed for Brooklyn next season.

Skeptics scoffed at the notion of Howard leaving $20 million on the table to sign as a free agent, but that’s no problem, either.

If Dwight wants to leave, he has to give up the $20 million, and he knows it.

Under the new rules, if Howard opts out, he gets the same money if he’s dealt to the Nets that he would by signing with them.

Also, what $20 million?

A four-year deal would take Howard to age 30—by which time he presumably will have signed an extension, making up the lost $20 mill.

So, this could really happen?

Hey, as they say these days in Lakerdom, nothing is forever.

Whatever happens, the NBA is nearing the end of one of those times when the tectonic plates rearrange themselves, or, in other words, there’s an earthquake.

NBA fans can feel the Earth move under their feet, as it did from 1996-1999, the last days of the Bulls’ reign when the NBA was like a board game that someone picked, so all the pieces rolled West.

Leaving the Bulls, Michael Jordan retired.

Going East to West were Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant, Dirk Nowitzki, Chris Webber, Vlade Divac, Rasheed Wallace, Jason Kidd and Scottie Pippen… as the draft dropped Tim Duncan into the Spurs’ laps.


From 1999-2003, the West won all five Finals by a combined 20-4.

By 2007, it was West 7, East 2, by 31-15.

I used to ask David Stern why they didn’t seed the playoffs, or the Final Four, or however many levels it took to avoid another matchup like Spurs vs. Cavaliers.

Stern would answer with the cycles-come-around bit.

Of course, while this one did come around, the NBA posted their three lowest Finals ratings within four years.

Nevertheless, starting in 2007, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony went West to East; LeBron James and Chris Bosh relocated in the East, and the draft dropped Derrick Rose into the Bulls’ laps.


If Miami and Chicago now look like the best two teams, imagine the East with Howard and Williams as Nets.

And if not, here’s what happens…

I don’t know what happens, nor does anyone else.

With the dawning realization Dwight and DWill may not get to their No. 1-2 options, a new player emerged:
Golden State, reportedly ready to trade for Howard as a “rental,” hoping to win his heart before he walks.

Another team has lurked in the weeds all along: Dallas, which let Tyson Chandler, Caron Butler and J.J. Barea leave, sacrificing this season but putting the Mavs in position to create a max slot.

Into that slot, presumably, would go Williams, a Dallas native.

Of course, it could also accommodate Howard, whose agent, Dan Fegan and owner Mark Cuban are, as a source noted, “as close as any owner and any agent are.”

If the Lakers can’t get Howard or Williams, they’ll have to go to Plan B.

Oh, wait, CP3 was Plan A, Howard was Plan B so this will be Plan C.

Meanwhile, speaking as someone who would like to tell you what will happen… occasionally… there’s only one thing I’m sure of: Whatever happens, in a year the NBA won’t look the way it does now.

Mark Heisler is a regular contributor to SheridanHoops, LakersNation and the Old Gray Lady. His columns and power rankings appear here each Wednesday. Follow him on Twitter.


  1. Mike says

    it is called the draft ….which the lakers will need to learn how to use…since they never learned much about it after getting superstars to come in the past.

  2. Ed Kelley says

    Nice to find you. Missed your LA Times New Year Resolutions for the NBA.

    Will there be an Open Letter to D. Sterling? I hope so. Should be interesting.


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