One name that won’t make as much noise this time around is Dwight Howard, who was the center of all the drama last season. According to Steven Marcus of Newsday, the Los Angeles Lakers big man is apparently off the market this season:
“We’re very happy with Mike D’Antoni,” Kupchak said. “I think when he took the job I think he thought Nash [fractured left leg] might be out a week or two. Not two months. Getting everybody on the same page took a little longer than expected. Not to say it’s been smooth sailing, that’s for sure.” Asked about his remaining options to salvage this season, Kupchak said, “We will not make a trade. We will not trade Dwight Howard. We have no intention of making a trade. It’s unlikely that we’ll make any trade with any of our principal players. To make another change at this time of the year being behind the eight-ball like we are, I think that would just make it more difficult. The talent is there. We have to find our way.”
Injured and all, this is probably a wise decision by Kupchak. Howard’s free agency situation, along with his back and shoulder injuries, makes him a difficult target to move anyway, but it also frees the team of any extra distraction – something it has likely had enough of this season. More importantly, you want a player of Howard’s caliber – a once a decade type of talent – on your team for the long haul, even if this season becomes a season to forget.
Still, with Kobe Bryant’s new-found willingness to move the ball like it needs to be moved in a D’Antoni-led offense, the Lakers have won five of their last six games. Aside from Howard, most of the core players are finally healthy and starting to better understand how to play with one another, so there is reason to be optimistic. It should only be a matter of time before this team makes a big run at the seventh or eighth seed in the Western Conference.
Being “very happy” with D’Antoni, though, may be pushing it, but that’s a story for another day.
Onto other news from around the league: