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Last night's Laker game, without KOBE BRYANT, sidelined with a badly sprained ankle, and without PAU GASOL, still recovering from a sore foot that has kept him out of 20 games, was a glimpse into the future. It was a look at what DWIGHT HOWARD'S Laker era will be like, and it wasn't pretty.

HOWARD was protected, as this year's trade deadline passed, and will be a free agent at the end of this season, with the potential of bolting and leaving the team with nothing to show for their trade of ANDREW BYNUM. With the news yesterday of BYNUM undergoing "season-ending" double knee surgery, without playing a single game for the Philadelphia 76'ers, that prospect may not seem so dire. But MITCH KUPCHAK, the Lakers General Manager, stood strongly behind HOWARD, saying he will be the face of the franchise for years to come, indicating he believes, and the Lakers stand by, signing HOWARD at season's end, to a max deal, making him the future of the franchise.

That future looked pretty bleak last night.

Now, I know the entire team, but for a resurgent STEVE BLAKE, was miserable in Phoenix. They collectively scored the lowest point toal, 76, of the season. That was against the worst team in the West. On a night back to the Valley of the Sun where he reigned supreme for so long, STEVE NASH shot a dismal 6 for 17. WORLD PEACE clanked 12 of 17 shots. ANTOINE JAMISON was 1 for 6.The suddenly disappearing EARL CLARK went just 2 for 5. And JODIE MEEKS only made 3 of 9 shots. No excuses, they all stunk.

But this is supposed to be DWIGHT HOWARD'S team once KOBE exits stage left. PAU GASOL is living on borrowed time. We won't be looking for STEVE NASH and ANTOINE JAMISON for points in the years ahead; they will be collecting social security before too long.

No, this is time for DWIGHT HOWARD to step up and take the reigns. So what did he do?

Well, he shot 3 of 12 in the paint, had 4 shots blocked, fumbled away countless other opportunities to go with his 4 turnovers, and missed 2 wide open dunks. And it wasn't like he was playing against a team with a formidable front line. His opponents included a guy who just learned the game a few years ago, and a journeyman center JERMAINE O'NEAL who has been in the league since the days they used peach baskets as hoops. There is no reason DWIGHT didn't dominate this game. Not the back to back game, not the 45 minute flight from Los Angeles, not the back surgery, not the labrum injury, none.

This is a $100 million dollar guy, the supposed best center in the league, the guy who wanted the offense to go through him, the guy who carries other players nobody wants, the guy who is supposed to have a statue out front of Staples Center. He has no sense of urgency. He plays like he's biding time to go to dinner. He has learned nothing from being on a team with KOBE BRYANT for nearly a season. And he will be a disaster as the face of the Lakers for the next so many years.

There is a best seller out these days that speaks of 10,000 hours of practice time before one really masters something. This guy looks like he hasn't taken 10 hours to practice his shot in the lane. Even less time on his free throws. And while he did manage to make 4 of 5 last night, he is still at less than 50% for the season. You can't be taken seriously as a center on a championship team, shooting less than 50% from the line.

You also can't be taken seriuosly if you are the coach of an aging team, a team riddled with injuries, and you go into a back to back game and play only a 7-man rotation. Really coach?

With D'ANTONI and HOWARD as the future of this team, one can only hope for a lockout, for years to come.



The Los Angeles Lakers reached the 500 mark for the first time in 2013, with a lucky win against the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday night. They blew a 16 point lead and hung on for the nail-biter, mostly on the re-invigorated back of KOBE BRYANT. As has been the case since the All-Star break, where the Lakers have won 5 of 6, it has been a frantic, and amazing effort by KOBE, with an equally urgent effort from STEVE NASH and the newly congealed bench mob of STEVE BLAKE, ANTOINE JAMESON and JODIE MEEKS that have got it done. DWIGHT HOWARD has mostly been in the way.

Take Sunday night. While he did finish with 11 points and 13 rebounds, he fumbled away 4 or 5 easy dunks; he caused 4 or 5 turnovers, to go with his own 5 turnovers, by not aggressively going for the ball when it was passed to him; and he nearly gave the game away at the end, by clearing the lane for easy layups down the stretch when every basket counted. He lost his man AL HORFORD for an easy basket that could have cost the game, but for the heroics of BRYANT. He finally did recover to guard JOSH SMITH on Atlanta's last play of the game, but he was non-existent in the last quarter, as is usually the case.

DWIGHT is no might in the middle. He finished with 1 blocked shot, and was not the stopper the Lakers thought they were getting with the former multiple winner of Defensive Player of the Year.

Maybe it is the injury to his shoulder. Maybe it is the back not fully recovered. Doubtful. You can see it in his demeanor. He does not have the championship fervor. He never will. It's kind of the story behind his free throw woes. He never had to do much more than plant himself down near the basket and dunk. Never really had to develop any shooting touch. That's why he's so feeble on his offensive move. He doesn't have a shot.

We've seen that kind of big man before. WILT CHAMBERLAIN was the kind of center, who really didn't have a whole lot of touch. He got down low, and muscled the ball into the basket. Later in his career he developed a finger roll, that really did involve some shooting skill. It was all finesse. But WILT was no shooter. His free throw shooting was as dismal as DWIGHT'S.

But what WILT did do was control the lane. He could dominate on the defensive end, with blocked shots, altered shots, and sweeping rebounds, for a period of time during the game, which would change the outcome. DWIGHT has shown none of that this year. He doesn't have that mental attitude. And MITCH KUPCHAK'S fantasy that DWIGHT HOWARD will have a statue ceremony in front of Staples is right out of Hollywood-all fiction.

The Lakers gave up 78 points in the paint to Denver last week, an NBA record. Really DWIGHT? Where were you? He's been watching KOBE rise to the occasion for the last 3 weeks, and can't seem to get on board. He's got better things to do than try and win a championship. It's a contract year, and he can play the field in July. Why clutter up things with a run through the playoffs?

Not even the LakerNation sendoff to owner of all time, JERRY BUSS, did much to light a fire under HOWARD. Laker legends assembled to regale the legend of BUSS, the team, and all that is being a Laker. DWIGHT played inspired basketball for 2 games, and then got back to his waltz through Los Angeles.

Let's hurry his departure. No need to qualify this year for post season play. DWIGHT would get outplayed by TIM DUNCAN or even SERGE IBAKA in the first round anyway. Sign and trade him at the end of the season, and count our blessings he didn't stink up this place for 10 more years.


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