Heading into the 2012-13 season, pundits had the Lakers penciled in for a trip o the NBA Finals because of all the talent on the roster — Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, and Dwight Howard topped the list. However, that season ended up being a perfect storm of bad that doomed the Lakers.
Lakers fans still have plenty of venom for Howard about that season. While he played in 76 games and averaged 17 points and 12 boards a night, he was nowhere near the dominant player he had been in Orlando. Combine that with a style clash with Kobe and questions about Howard’s work ethic in comparison, and Howard became a scapegoat.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, busy promoting his new book, piled on Howard in an interview with Lakers Nation.
“Well, Dwight Howard didn’t want to do any work,” Kareem told Lakers Nation. “Andrew Bynum did not want to do a lot of work, but Andrew was kind of getting the hang of it. I don’t think Andrew was that interested in playing basketball.
“Dwight Howard, I’m not going to say anything about him because I really don’t understand what his thing was.”
First, that was always the book on Andrew Bynum. When he was focused on basketball and interested in the game he was good, but he had a lot of interests outside the sport that were on equal footing in his mind. When he got injured, and it required a lot of focus to get back, he drifted.
As for Howard, we need to be fair: He was coming off back surgery and came back too quickly that season, and it set him back all year. Frankly, he’s never been the same player after the back issues. However, that season if he had waited, rehabbed, and returned mid-season he might have been the player the Lakers needed, or at least closer to it. The guy they got wasn’t good enough. Combine that with all the other injuries and issues — don’t forget the idiotic coaching change five games into the season to Mike D’Antoni — and the team was doomed.
This story fits the popular narrative about Howard not being serious about his craft, whether it’s valid or not. That said, why not work out a little with one of the game’s all-time greats? Where’s the harm?
Howard has his share of blame for how things came apart in Los Angeles, but the problems were much larger than him.