Author: Matt Moore

Dwight Howard Shaquille O'Neal

Shaq says the pressure is on Howard to win in L.A.. Related: Obvious former Lakers center is obvious.


Shaquille O’Neal, ever the critic of Dwight Howard since Howard “stole” his Superman moniker, had some strong words for Howard coming to L.A.. It’s not going to be a cakewalk, indeed it’s going to be a huge challenge. From USA Today:

“The pressure that he has been feeling in Orlando has just multiplied by three now,” O’Neal said in comments released by TNT. “The first thing the great Jerry West did when I signed with the Lakers is he walked me into the Forum and told me to look up. He showed me all the great big men that played before me and how many championships they won. The Lakers have a tradition of having great big men. He has a lot of work ahead of him. If he thinks the Orlando Sentinel was on his case when he didn’t perform, guys like (Los Angeles Times columnist) Bill Plaschke, they don’t play.”

via Shaq, Barkley talk Dwight Howard –

O’Neal knows something of the pressure to win and has always been proud of the success he had in L.A. winning three titles. It certifies him, validates him. Howard stands in position to challenge that with the core he’s surrounded by. O’Neal was also a hugely popular cultural figure, far more than Howard, and was able to woo reporters with his charm and quotes. Howard faces a tougher approach in getting the public back on his side, but if you peruse the L.A. Times this morning, you’re going to find a whole lot of softball yogurt about the Lakers’ acquisition of Howard. It’s only if they struggle that things would turn.

Watching O’Neal cover this development on TNT will be interesting, if only because of how much he’s following in O’Neal’s footsteps, whether he likes it or not.

Kobe Bryant sends mixed messages about Andrew Bynum

Dallas Mavericks v Los Angeles Lakers - Game One

OK, this is kind of weird. It doesn’t really matter, it’s just kind of weird. Here’s Kobe Bryant’s message on Facebook to Andrew Bynum on Friday:

I wish nothing but the best for Big Bynum. I hope he follows what was a great season last year with an even better one next year.

via Well, it looks like….

And that’s sweet, right? I mean, that’s a nice, seemingly genuine sentiment towards a young player that Bryant really supported throughout his career. It was baffling last year when Bynum would ignore play sets and ignore huddles, yet Bryant not only didn’t seek out correcting him, but didn’t get angry about it in the press. For a guy that has continually lashed out at teammates for not living up to his high expectations, Bynum always kind of got a pass. So maybe he just has that kind of affection for him. But then, from the New York Daily News, there’s this quote from Bryant after Team USA’s win yesterday:

“The consensus (among his Olympic teammates) was that there was no way we could get Dwight and still keep Pau. They all know what Pau does for us. I said I think we can make it happen, they said no.

“Well, we got Pau for virtually nothing, so history does repeat itself.”

via Kobe Bryant ‘excited’ for Lakers franchise after L.A. lands Dwight Howard in four-team blockbuster trade – NY Daily News.

So Bynum had a “great season” but was “virtually nothing?” How does that work?

Again, it doesn’t matter, it’s just weird. You can make the argument that he’s more referring to the fact that the Lakers didn’t have to give up more than one player, and as there are only maybe two players on the planet better than Howard, that’s a huge win under any lens. But for someone as well-versed in the media as Kobe, we’re used to seeing daggers hidden behind innocuous comments when he talks to reporters. We never really got to understand the Kobe-Bynum relationship, and we probably never will.

Besides, we have a whole new dynamic to try and unravel.

Report: Nets-Magic Howard deal blew up because of Orlando animosity

Dwight Howard

Business is business. But business is conducted by humans, and humans have emotions, like pride, anger, and resentment. And it turns out that what may have sunk a potential Nets-Magic deal wasn’t the deal itself, but how Orlando felt about the Nets. From the New York Daily News:

A league source told the Daily News that a stumbling block in negotiations was lingering animosity stemming from the Magic’s belief the Nets illegally contacted Howard in December without Orlando’s permission. The Nets denied they had met with Howard, and charges were never filed with the league.

via Brooklyn Nets’ Deron Williams lost interest in Dwight Howard sweepstakes well before Thursday’s trade to the Lakers – NY Daily News.

In the same article, Deron Williams says that the Magic “just didn’t want to deal him to (the Nets).”

The reaction from most people is going to be outrage, or disgust, that personal feelings should never get in the way of a deal this important.

My response? There are bigger things at play here.

For starters, the Nets’ deal wasn’t some awe-inspiring package of young players and picks. The picks all came from one team, which was going to be 25-plus with a core of Deron Williams and Dwight Howard. Brook Lopez is a phenomenal talent, but because of his free agency status, was going to end up giving them a sizable contract that was going to be hard to move if Lopez has injury issues or regresses further. Even if Kris Humphries would have been on a $9 million one-year deal as Yahoo Sports reported, 1. Humphries would have to agree to take substantially less than market value (he signed for two-years, $12-million) and 2. you’re still looking at over $20 million going on the books in 2013 for an absolutely wretched team. Even with Marshon Brooks and the cap-clearing, that’s not a good deal. you can argue it was better than what they got, that comes down to how you feel about Lopez, and there are arguments to be made on both sides.

But there’s a bigger point here.

In business, the companies that thrive long-term have a commitment to doing it the right way. You can skirt those tactics for a while, but eventually, the rot gets through your organization and your hubris takes its toll. And there’s something to be said for maintaining your pride. If the Magic legitimately felt that the Nets had tampered with their player, their best player, that’s a huge violation of NBA rules and of NBA managerial conduct. It’s one thing to tamper with your player, it’s another to then continually collude with that player’s camp to ruin all other leverage in regards to other deals and to constantly pressure the team into making the trade. And there’s a lot of evidence that that might have gone on. You can’t blame Howard’s people. It’s their job to fulfill their clients wishes. That’s what their responsibility is, not to the team. But to Howard, and to the Nets, as members of the NBA, there’s a way to conduct business and a way not to. So if Orlando decided it didn’t want to have someone steal their lunch money, then trade their backpack to get a third of that money back, I don’t see how you can blame them.

It’s not about being petty. It’s about conducting yourself in a way that maintains your self-respect. Maybe the Nets did nothing wrong, they certainly have always claimed so. But there were reports about meetings between Prokhorov and Howard prior to Orlando granting teams permission to speak with him. Even if they did nothing wrong, the Magic acted out of self-preservation.

Sometimes you just can’t let people walk all over you, even if it is, “the best thing for you.”