Bernucca: Why the Lakers have to trade Dwight Howard

Dwight Howard is the best center in the NBA. Yes, still.

He also is (a) incapable of making an elbow jumper, (b) unreliable at the free-throw line, (c) susceptible to long-term injury, (d) hypersensitive to criticism from teammates and coaches, (e) more interested in becoming the next Bill Murray rather than the next Bill Russell and (f) wondering why no one has handed him the icon status he desperately craves.

But the worst thing Howard is – and unlike the items above, this is a temporary condition – is a square peg in a round hole.

The Lakers, who don’t do future very well, mortgaged a considerable part of it to bring Howard to Los Angeles. Already marginalized by playing alongside three stars who require the ball in Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Steve Nash, Howard’s potential impact was further diminished when the Lakers fired Mike Brown and hired Mike D’Antoni, who wants his players to play at pace, face the basket, shoot 3-pointers and not worry so much about defense.

This is an awful fit for Howard’s skill set. But the Lakers already are paying Brown not to coach for the next two-plus years. Paying D’Antoni not to coach for the next three-plus years – and finding another who caters to Howard – seems like a bit much even for an outfit that treats the luxury tax the way Puerto Rico drivers treat stop signs.

And this is why the Lakers should trade Dwight Howard.

What exactly are the Lakers playing for this season? They would have to go 20-8 down the stretch just to get to 45 wins, which is probably the magic number for a playoff berth in the West. And they would have to do it without much help from Gasol, who is out until April.

Further, the Lakers are a collective 1-9 vs. San Antonio, Oklahoma City, the rival Clippers and Memphis, the top four teams in the West.

It’s been a long time since the Lakers were sellers at the trading deadline. They dealt for Jordan Hill and Ramon Sessions a year ago, Shannon Brown in 2009 and Gasol in 2008.

But sellers they should be, and not just because Bryant doesn’t seem to care if Howard stays or goes.

It just makes sense, as do two other deadline deals that we are hereby suggesting.

1. Lakers trade Dwight Howard to Mavericks for Dirk Nowitzki

About five minutes after taking the Lakers job, D’Antoni was lamenting the lack of a floor-spreading stretch 4 that makes his offense work better. The best shooting big man in NBA history fits the bill pretty well, for a number of reasons.


  1. says

    Send Howard to Dallas if the Mavs will give up Nowitzki for the trade. Dirk would fit in with the Lakers roster of players very well and he isn’t a prima donna like Howard, and isn’t out with injury for every little hangnail.

  2. jerry25 says

    Agree with all your points, but Cuban would be taking a risk to sign Howard, without having Dirk. Howard could easily leave for Houston in Summer and have a better team.

    Also, tomorrow’s game of Boston vs. LA could be a huge one. If LA loses, they would have to go 20-7 the rest of way to finish 45-37 as you say. A Howard for Rondo trade makes sense for Boston, since Celts would then believe they have a shot at title this season (though I don’t think Howard can finish season).

    Lakers could then move Nash for talent for next year, since they wouldn’t make playoffs if they lose tomorrow.

    I can see Howard going to Houston or signing a 1+1 with Lakers.

  3. zodiac says

    Might Dirk retire at the end of this season if traded to the Lakers? Its not like next year is guaranteed to be that much fun for the Lakers with all of theirs stars approaching social security age (Bryant, Gasol, Nash and the newly installed Dirk, not to mention MWP)

    • says

      He might. But he also might retire in 2 years if he stays in Dallas. The Mavs’ plan is flawed because whoever comes there has to carry Dirk, whom I love but is done as a superstar. He could extend his career – as could all of those old guys – by playing together. Thanks for reading

  4. Bryan says

    This column 180’d in the middle – is it a piece about Howard or an overall trade discussion list? Strange to read with the title as is.


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