Los Angeles Lakers fans worldwide must now ask the scariest question: With the injury to Pau Gasol, do all the hopes and dreams in Laker land come down to the still unproven Dwight Howard? And the question that is the immediate follow-up: Does Howard lack the urgency to win?
According to Kobe Bryant (in an interview posted on NBA.com), there may well be suspicion that Howard does lack that urgency that is felt by both Bryant and all Lakers fans. In the interview, Bryant says plain, "We don't have time for (Howard's shoulder) to heal. We need some urgency."
The only word Bryant lacked was "now." As in, we need some urgency right now. As in, if it's not right now, it may as well be never. Bryant came close to saying just that when he said, "We don't have three years. We've got this year."
And that is just the problem. In a season where everything has gone wrong, from injuries to Steve Nash, Steve Blake and Jordan Hill to injuries to Howard and Gasol, if it can be imagined, it has happened to this Lakers team. And in high NBA drama, just when the Lakers were getting it together and winning games, the maybe-fatal injuries came back-to-back with Howard and Gasol.
It's not difficult to understand the point of view of Bryant. For one, he is 34 years old and doesn't have much time. For another, it is the attitude of L.A. to win it all or go home. Most importantly, nobody knows what to think of Howard.
This is a man who doesn't want to hear a word about what he did in Orlando last year. This is a man who wants to be trusted in L.A. Yet, he hasn't signed a contract past this year, nor has he gotten it done on the floor.
One could argue his injuries have kept him back and that he has done the best he can under the circumstances. That argument might fly someplace else but not in L.A. In L.A., the suspicion is this man may lack the heart or the (what's that word?) urgency to get it done when it matters.
The concern is that Howard is like a man with a horrible track record in relationships. He has burned those who came before him, and he has not even agreed to a long-term commitment in the relationship he is in. The concern is he may put self before team. He may be more concerned with future prospects than current battles.
Bryant said that Howard "has never been in a position where someone is driving him as hard" as Kobe. For awhile, this wasn't true. Bryant tried to deal with these new and younger players on their terms. He tried to be more sensitive and give them time.
But for L.A. this year, the time is up. It's now or never for the Lakers, Howard and Howard with the Lakers.
It's now a matter of heart, will and the kind of drive that separates the would-be champions from the have-been champions. It comes down to right now. Can Dwight Howard rise to the occasion right now? That is what champions have to do. That is what urgency is all about.