The biggest question last offseason in the NBA was “Where would Dwight Howard go?” The “Dwightmare” was over once Howard was shipped to Los Angeles in a three team deal. Between the likes of him, Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace and Pau Gasol, the Western Conference seemed to be theirs for the taking. (If somehow anyone from the Spurs or Thunder is reading this, they just laughed extremely hard.)
Then everyone remembered that the winners and losers are still decided on the court and not on paper. The Lakers had a miserable season by their standards, barely making the playoffs and getting eviscerated 4-0 by the resurgent Spurs led by Tony Parker and Tim Duncan. Kobe tore his Achilles in game number eighty, and doubt about Dwight’s future began to bubble to the surface again.
Now Howard is a free agent and is rumored to be on the move after a sour 2012-2013 season in LA. The two biggest suitors are the Houston Rockets and Dallas Mavericks who have both coveted the big man from the ATL for at least two years now. No one knows who will get the services of Howard next season (and I’d likely wager he hasn’t an idea, either), but this would be my argument to sway him to come to “Clutch City”.
Me: Hey, Dwight. It’s Sean O’Brien.
Me: Well you don’t know me, but that’s beside the point. What are you up to?
Dwight: Oh, you know- working tirelessly on my post moves in the gym and trying to get better for next season.
Dwight: No, I just always hear the star players say that, so I figured it sounded appropriate. I’m just relaxing in Cali for now and trying to further my acting resume.
Me: How’s that going for you?
Dwight: Not so good. They just think it’s funny I am tall and smile a lot. You see as much talent as I have, it doesn’t translate to being marketable.
Me: Yeah, that is unique since you seem to have personality. But you know what is marketable? Winning. So in terms of your future and legacy, where do you think you’re going to play next season?
Dwight: Sean, I’m Dwight Howard. I don’t even know where I want to go for lunch, and by the time I do- I’ll have thought of ten other restaurants before the final one.
WWDD: What would Dwight do? No one knows, not even him.
Dwight: Yeah, it’s not July so Daryl Morey can’t contact me yet. But I have heard James Harden and Chandler Parsons talk about me to the media- so I think they definitely have an interest in me.
Me: Yeah, I mean they almost traded half their team for you last season, remember? So you could say they are interested. Parsons and you are good friends since he is from Orlando as I recall it. That should be a cherry on top of a very solid foundation for their youth movement in Houston.
Dwight: For sure. Parsons is a funny dude and a heck of a player. I think it would be fun to play with him and James. But Houston is in a small market- why would I want to go there aside from the fun and friend parts?
Houston has a young, talented core- unlike the Lakers.
Dwight: I mean, you’re right. But what about LA? There’s a TON of gorgeous women out here.
Me: Last time I checked, you’re luck with the women hasn’t been so great these last few years. How about you take a break from them and just focus on your livelihood and passion? The women will always be there, and Houston is not lacking attractive females, either.
Dwight: Hmm. Good point. But what about Kobe? He’s one of the most talented players in the league. Any player would die to play on the same team as him.
Me: I won’t deny that. But you do remember the whole “torn Achilles” thing? At his age and all the mileage he has on his legs, especially his knees- the recovery will be a long one for him, no matter how determined he is. Even healthy, he’s still nearing 35 years old. And when you factor in the fact that you two don’t get along-
Dwight: Sean, we are really good friends.
BFF: Best friends for-never.
Me: Dwight, be real. No picture on Twitter, or politically correct statement can make anyone believe that’s true. You guys don’t get along whatsoever. He wants to win no matter what. You want to win while having fun. Plus, if you don’t get your touches, you act like Randy Moss did on the Titans. Do you think you’ll continue to get the touches you want with Kobe on your team?
Me: And remember that Harden guy? He’s a dynamic talent like Kobe and only getting better- but he is also 12 years younger and more willing to include his teammates throughout the whole game. James is also locked up and is sure to be in Houston a long time. He made Omer Asik look like a star last season by being one of the better pick-and-roll guards in the league- and that’s what you thrive on. You don’t have a hook shot, or a fade away. You definitely do not have a jumper. Let’s be honest- nine years in you don’t just develop those overnight. So play to your strengths. Attack the basket and make easy buckets. Get rebounds. Be dominant and take pressure off of Harden at times while not having to be the scapegoat when things aren’t going your way.
Dwight: You mentioned Omer Asik. Won’t the fact he’s there affect my minutes?
Me: Not if :
A. He comes off the bench
B. You two play at the same time.
He’s one of the best rebounders in the league because he’s got size but also technique. He’ll only make you look better. Plus you’ll be able to challenge Memphis’ Gasol and Randolph duo. You won’t get worn down by having to be the only one in there fighting for boards. Even James and Chandler will help you on the boards. Jeremy Lin and Patrick Beverley are great at rebounding for guards, too. The best part about Asik is that he isn’t looking to score. He’s a worker. He grinds down the opposition, and you’ll get a ton of easy baskets due to his ability to set screens and find the open man as well. He’s a great passer for such a big guy. All of those players will help you play to your biggest strength- finishing at the rim.
Dwight: What about the coaching style? I have heard it's very similar to the one D'Antoni uses- and I hate it.
Me: Yes, you are correct. McHale does run a system very similar, but he has the right personnel for it. Last time I checked, you get up and down the floor very well for a big man. Just like in Orlando, you'll be open for many an alley-oop from Jeremy or James. No one is out for themselves in Houston. It's a very relaxed, laid back locker room with teammates that actually like each other. Also, McHale is a player's coach. He works with everyone, and will most assuredly be able to teach you more than a few of his thousands of crafty post moves. Hakeem Olajuwon won't be far away, either.
Dwight: Ok, that sounds even more enticing. But money talks and….well you know what walks. As a Laker, I am guaranteed an extra 30 million dollars over the course of my next contract if I choose to re-sign. You know what I could buy with 30 million extra dollars?
This trophy should be Dwight's main goal.
Me: Cars, houses, gold-seated toilets. You know what you can’t buy, Dwight? Championships. Sure, you can pawn the ring if you become broke in twenty years, but no amount of money can get give you the title of "NBA Champion". The currency that pays for that is hard work and an all-around talented team with one goal: getting to the top of the NBA mountain. And like Russell, Jordan, Kobe and LeBron, you don’t want to just get to the top. You want to stay there as long as possible.
I talked about Kobe earlier, but Nash is a year older, Metta wants out and Pau is dangled constantly as trade bait and has to be a little bitter by now. Looking back at your series against the Spurs, the young players aren’t being looked at to take the baton from Kobe. The Lakers are looking to begin a rebuild, beginning with the 2014 NBA Draft- and to do that, you not being a Laker is the first step.
Another plus to playing in the state of Texas: no state income tax. Zero percent. In California? Thirteen percent. That means over the life of your hypothetical contract with the Lakers, you would only end up making 9.3 million more. Is that worth giving up the chance to be on a title-contending team?
Dwight: But Los Angeles has a bigger market, right?
Me: The fact that Yao Ming created a strong Asian market for Rockets' basketball in Houston as well as China is only helped with Jeremy Lin's presence. That market means more money for you, as well. The Houston metropolitan area is made up of six million people, ranking fifth in the NBA. The better the Texans played, the more people wanted to see them. Winning cures all. Add you to that market? It will blow up and change the course of the franchise and the city in general for the better for years to come.
Dwight: But they also made this huge billboard on the Staples Center just for me. They really want me.
Me: No, they want the fans to see they are trying. It’s a publicity stunt- that’s all it is.
Dwight: You mentioned Texas. The Mavericks want me, too. Why should I not go there?
Me: In LA, you get the money and bright lights and a ton of pressure. In Houston, you get a young team hungry to win with less pressure and a more inclusive environment. Dallas? You get a combination of both cons from the previous two locales. You have an aging star in Dirk Nowitzki who battled injuries in 2012 and not much cap room to be able to add any more big substantial pieces. Yes, the owner would love to have you as well as the fans- but you’ll take all the blame and also miss out on all the extra money as well. Being a title contender wouldn’t be a guarantee by any stretch of the imagination.
Dwight: I am from Atlanta, and they want me. Why not play in my hometown?
Me: Because you were only going there if Chris Paul was. It sounds nice and utopian- but now that Doc Rivers is with the Clippers, Paul isn’t going anywhere.
Dwight: Won’t people call me a quitter? People said I quit on Orlando. I don’t want to quit on the Lakers.
Houston has a big man tradition.
Dwight: This is such a tough decision. I should probably think it over for the whole summer before I make it.
Me: Don't do that. Get the elephant out of the room and sign by July 10th like you said you intended to.
Dwight: Should I keep people updated using my Twitter?
Dwight: What would Shaq do? People are always comparing us.
Me: LeBron is not Jordan. You aren't Shaq. Be Dwight Howard, not anyone else.
Dwight: Well thank you for the unique perspective, John. Any other tips?
Me: Work on your free throws. And it's Sean, by the way.
Dwight: Thanks, Sean. I wish Kobe was this helpful. How’d you get my number again?
Me: Um, well, err.…>CLICK<
Dwight: Hello? Hello?