LOS ANGELES — And so, Dwight Howard winds up with the Lakers… just as we said he would!
Of course, we said that in the spring of 2011, after All-Star Weekend when Dwight was asked which player here he’d most like to play with, and he answered “Kobe Bryant.”
In the 18 months since, we said a bunch of other things:
He was going to the Nets with Deron Williams.
He was going to the Mavericks with Deron Williams.
He was going to Houston.
He wasn’t staying in Orlando.
Actually, the last one was something Dwight said last spring. The only people who believed it were Orlando officials, and they only did so briefly — although long enough to fire coach Stan Van Gundy and force GM Otis Smith to resign, just in case the Dwight-Orlando marriage could be salvaged.
Of course, a lot has happened to the Lakers, who were reigning back-to-back champions in 2011.
Dallas shocked their world in the second round, sweeping them. People noticed they were old and slow. Phil Jackson retired.
Mike Brown (or as he’s known around here, Who?) was hired.
Brown junked the triangle.
Charis Paul happened, then unhappened.
Andrew Bynum happened.
Pau Gasol happened in the other direction.
This spring it wasn’t even a shock when the Thunder ran them over, 4-1, in the second round.
Somewhere in there, we learned that Dwight and Kobe had talked on the phone.
Kobe went on and on about all the firepower they had and how all Dwight would have to do was defend and rebound.
Or maybe he didn’t. Unfortunately for the Lakers, that was how Dwight took it.
In any case, Dwight crossed the Lakes off his list, sentencing us to a year of Nets-Mavericks scenarios, none of which turned out to happen.
Unfortunately for Brooklyn, which had acquired Joe Johnson and looked like it was almost home on a Dwight-Brook Lopez, et al. deal in July, the Nets went on the clock when the signing moratorium ended when they learned several teams were about to tender offer sheets to their center, Lopez, and they gave Orlando a deadline.
(Have you noticed all the unfortunates there are in this story? That’s what happens when a superstar center dangles for 18 months, changing his mind as he goes. And we’re barely getting to would-be players such as Houston and Dallas, not to mention more in Golden State, Cleveland, Atlanta…)
Magic officials, who didn’t take the Nets’ deadline seriously, were still telling people that talks were ongoing when New Jersey re-signed Lopez, taking him off the table until January 15 when he would again be eligible to be traded.
After that, everyone got really desperate.
Houston shook things up with its willingness to take Dwight without any committment that he’d stay longer than one season.
That brought the Lakers back into it with Bynum, who had just played his first full season as a starter, as their bargaining chip.
Unfortunately, Bynum, like Dwight, was on an expiring contract.
In the end, the Magic had to find three trading partners, two of whom would take star centers on expiring contracts with no assurance of keeping them.
Dwight to the Lakers. Bynum to the 76ers, Andre Iguodala to the Nuggets, some young guys (including promising darkhorse Moe Harkless) and three No. 1s to Orlando.
(RELATED CONTENT: Sheridan: Winners and Losers in the Dwight Howard trade)
Actually, it’s safe enough for the Lakers and 76ers, who hold their players’ Bird rights, which means they can offer 20% bigger deals.
It’s one thing for the Rockets to trade everyone for Dwight and risk him leaving.
It’s another thing for the Lakers and 76ers, who have viable contending teams, to run that risk.
This works for the 76ers, is madness for the Nuggets who just helped hatched another Laker monster, and is no biggie for Orlando, which wasn’t going to robbed, one way or the other.
As to who made out most…
Are you kidding?
The Lakers, written off by so many (and, unfortunately, by no one as often and as finality as me), are back in a big way.
This isn’t the Lakers’ 1969 debacle with Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West and Elgin Baylor. Kobe, Dwight and Steve Nash fit as neatly as Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen did, joining Paul Pierce in 2007.
The Lakers are now talking about having their new assistant coach, Eddie Jordan, put in the Princeton offense he used in Washington and Philadelphia.
With Kobe, Dwight and Nash, Mike Brown could design an offense and Brown, who specializes in defenses, doesn’t coach a lot of offense.
Yes, the Lakers are back.
We’ll see if they make it all the way back, and it may only last two seasons with all their contracts except Nash’s expiring and ownership hell-bent on getting under the tax threshold by July, 1, 2014, or incur the repeater penalty forever after.
But for the moment, in Oklahoma City, they’re worried about a lot more than San Antonio and in San Antonio, they’re worried about a lot more than Oklahoma City.
Oh, and LeBron James’ TV special, announcing he was taking his talents to South Beach?
At least, he got it over in one night and still got put through two years of hell.
Welcome to L.A., Dwight.
One way or another, it’ll be memorable.
Mark Heisler is a regular contributor to SheridanHoops, LakersNation and Huffington Post. His power rankings appear every Wednesday during the regular season, and his columns and video reports appear regularly here. Follow him on Twitter.