Win Now Or Win Later?
Don't mortgage the future
This season has gone so awfully for the Lakers, it's left them with simply awful choices. Trade Dwight Howard? Two months ago the idea would've been laughed out of town. Fire Mike D'Antoni? How does firing two coaches in one season get the Lakers closer to winning a title?
No, the mistake from the beginning has been focusing on winning a title and not on converting this All-Star team into an even halfway decent team. It's one thing to set that as a goal, it's another thing to assume that as a birthright.
Trading Howard now doesn't get the Lakers any closer to an NBA championship this year and probably next year, either. If this team's window is indeed the next two years, why then would you mortgage your future to do a trade that doesn't guarantee anything will change during that so-called "championship window"?
Yes, Howard could leave the Lakers high and dry this summer and sign elsewhere if he's willing to leave some $30 million on the table. But it's hard to believe anyone, even a superstar, would leave that kind of guaranteed money -- especially a guy coming off major back surgery.
So if the Lakers still believe Howard is the player to lead them after Bryant retires, this is an easy bluff to call.
Title window is closing
The Lakers are about winning championships. If they could somehow guarantee they would win a championship this season or next season by trading Dwight Howard they would do it in a heartbeat.
As much as I think Howard could be the future face of this franchise, if the Lakers don't think he will ever reclaim the form he had from 2009 to 2011, it would be wise to hit the reset button rather than giving him a max deal.
Let's be honest, the Lakers' title chances will greatly diminish when Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash retire in a year or two. Sure, they'll have cap space to go sign a new starting backcourt but chances are it won't ever be as good as it is now.
So if the goal is simply to win for the next year or two and not worry about the future, maybe you forget about making the Howard experiment work and trade him. Maybe there's some truth to that three-way deal in which the Lakers could get Kevin Love and a couple of bench players in return. In that scenario, Pau Gasol returns to his natural center position and would play alongside Love, to the delight of Bryant and Nash, no doubt. And maybe the Lakers improve on the thinnest bench in the league.
Now, that team doesn't guarantee a championship, but it would be a much better fit than the current group, and would give Bryant and Nash the best chance to win a title before they retire. And once that happens the Lakers can start focusing on the future and building their next championship contender.