Lakers Need to Ditch Dwight Howard, Think Towards 2014 in Free Agency

Around this time last year, the Lakers popped the blue pill.

As Laker GM Mitch Kupchak is plenty prone to do, he made quick work of the trade market and brought in the likes of Dwight Howard and Steve Nash without giving up Pau Gasol and managed to unload Andrew Bynum on the hapless 76'ers in the process.

The move resuscitated Laker fans' impotent expectations. Gone were the days of speculating the efficacy of Regenokine therapy and questioning Kobe Bryant's shot selection, and soon would come the dawn of a Dwight Howard-led dynasty. Laker fans were all but camping out on Figueroa Street waiting on a parade as they rested reasonably assured of at least an NBA Finals appearance.

Nobody needs to tell Laker Nation that the 2012-13 season went horribly wrong shortly thereafter. It was a failed experiment of throwing together a host of marquee names and praying that it all worked out. It didn't, and now the Lakers have a much more bitter pill to swallow: a roster mired in unsavory contracts and, for the first time since 1997, heading into a season without playoff expectations.

Swallowing the red pill is always painful—but the NBA is a business where the worst place to come face-to-face with reality is on the court. Here are some points to be made about the Lakers moving forward, and how they can most quickly return to contention.


The Lakers Don't Absolutely Have to Re-Sign Dwight Howard

Laker fans seem to want Dwight Howard back long term, but to paraphrase Howard's demeanor in the 2013 NBA Playoffs: it's not the end of the world if it doesn't happen. By requesting a team that is going to be perennially in contention, Howard (like LeBron James before him) is revealing that he understands he will only go as far as the teammates around him. Unlike James, Howard fails to realize that, as a potential future face of the franchise, the onus is on him to create a perennially contending cul...

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