Howard didn’t ruin the Lakers’ failed attempt to win a title behind an injury-riddled veteran superteam. He didn’t ruin the Lakers by deciding to leave for the Houston Rockets, either.
Stop blaming the guy for damaging the franchise or for making an easy decision this summer—the issue comes down to bitterness.
Howard's decision to leave the Lakers was a shot at the fanbase's "no one leaves us" mentality. The culture has changed when the Purple and Gold are no longer the desired franchise. The superstar's decision to head to Houston underscores the reality of the Lakers' dim future, and that has become too much for some fans to handle.
But to persecute Howard for leaving? Or to degrade his talents as an elite center? That’s completely asinine. Last season wasn't Howard's fault.
Dwight Howard didn’t chronically injure Steve Nash, break Pau Gasol or Metta World Peace, nor did he tear Kobe Bryant’s Achilles' tendon. Howard wasn’t the reason Mike Brown got fired or why Mike D’Antoni couldn't adapt to his roster.
If anyone is culpable for the Lakers’ woeful season, one that resulted in a postseason but also a first-round sweep to the San Antonio Spurs, it’s certainly not Howard. While much of Los Angeles core lost time due to injury, Howard missed just six games despite coming off major back surgery.
All totaled, Howard played 76 games while averaging 17.1 points on 57.8 percent shooting, 12.4 rebounds and 2.4 blocks even though his usage (Insider subscription) of 19.9 was lower than it'd been since 2005-06 with the Orlando Magic.
No, he wasn’t Shaquille O’Neal or Wilt Chamberlain, but he never has been. He was exactly what the Lakers signed up for even if he didn’t meet overambitious expectations.
Here’s a guy who battled through recovery from injury—you can read his conversation about it with Bleacher Report in March—and instead of receiving praise for playing well through pain, he was torched for still not being enough.
No one will ever know how the 2012-13 Lakers season would have played out if the starting lineup, and the bench, too, stayed healthy.
Bryant’s comments and criticism throughout the season didn’t help. Kobe’s the sharp-tongued idol to his Purple and Gold followers and his words carry weight among the masses. In offering public critiques of his new teammate, Bryant created a derisive environment.
Howard is also guilty of how he handled things this past season, but Bryant has a greater history here; O’Neal didn’t want to be a part of that, and neither did Howard.
Who knows what went on behind the purple curtain, but it was evident the two superstar teammates didn’t get along. When Bryant offered his recent listen-and-learn speech to Howard, as Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports reported, it became only the most recent example of life with Bryant.
Of course, it’s more than just off-court chemistry issues; Howard didn’t seem to blend with the Lakers culture and roster. When given the choice to return to a nearly identical situation, Howard instead opted to head to Texas.
The Lakers didn’t have much on which to sell Howard. He could return for the sunset of Bryant’s career while the team transitions into a payroll with just a year of Nash remaining, or he could opt for Houston’s rosy future.
Seems like a no-brainer. None of this was Howard’s fault—not last season and not his decision. Ice Cube needs to cool it.
Lakers fans who are angry with Howard, those who were so upset that they burned his jersey, obviously valued him enough. If they thought he was bad for Los Angeles, they would be happy he chose Houston.
That should mean that those same fans should understand he was unjustifiably cast as the Lakers’ scapegoat last season. So instead of further disparaging Howard, those cynics should realize why Howard uprooted an embarked on a new journey. The Rockets’ future is far brighter than the Lakers’ current path—at least as it stands this offseason.
While the Lakers will hope to attract free agents next summer to play alongside Bryant, the Rockets already have a young collection of talent in place with flexibility to do more. Howard joins James Harden, Chandler Parsons and (likely) Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik on a team that should contend for the length of his four-year deal.
To knock Howard for jettisoning a diminishing franchise and its fussy superstar is completely illogical. Howard had no obligation to be loyal to the Lakers. As a free agent, he made a decision to play where he saw best fit.
It wasn’t in Los Angeles, and that’s not Dwight Howard’s fault.