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.