The Lakers need to make a decision RIGHT NOW. Not to save this season, I believe that may very well be a lost cause, but to perhaps salvage next season. The front office needs to decide whether they want to keep Dwight Howard, or Mike D'Antoni. They can't keep both. Dwight is not a fit for D'Antoni's system, and the coach is hand-cuffed into playing the under-performing big late in games when sitting him would be the best strategic move.
If the front office wants to move forward with Dwight Howard as the centerpiece, they need to fire Mike D'Antoni and hire a coach that will cater to their embattled and fundamentally unsound big man's game. If the front office has visions of showtime 2.0 dancing in their heads, they need to trade Dwight Howard (perhaps to Dallas for Dirk Nowitzki and Shawn Marion) and make Pau Gasol the starting center. Pau may not fit as the stretch 4 in D'Antoni's system, but put him at the 5 and suddenly he fits. There is a reason that the Mike D'Antoni Lakers offensive and defensive ratings are highest with Gasol and Jamison together in the front court.
If the Lakers can get a proven stretch 4 (Dirk is the BEST stretch 4 in the business) so that Jamison can work that role from the bench, then they become a much more formidable opponent, especially in the area of Free Throw Percentage. A front line of Gasol and Nowitzki would be quite a formidable shooting front court. If the Lakers really want to build around Dwight Howard, the future for the roster and the coaching staff becomes more muddled and more difficult to contemplate.
Gasol is trending downward in performance, is now going to be chronically hurt with arthritic knees, and as a result becomes an untradeable player with a bloated contract. Perhaps next season, in the final year of his deal, the Lakers could trade his expiring contract...except that would mean taking on Pau's salary (in the form of other players coming in to replace Pau) for a longer period going into a much more punitive salary cap system. The best strategy is to admit that with his ailing knees, Pau has become a center...and nothing else. He is still a very good option at the 5, and he seems to prefer that role these days.
A Gasol for Stoudamire trade could work, but in my opinion that only puts a band-aid on the far more serious issue of poor shooting from the front court. I'm not sure what the Lakers should do going forward. Perhaps standing pat will prove the best solution. As this increasingly unsalvageable season moves along, and the losses pile up, I worry about the future, both immediate and long term.
I see a possible future where Gasol and Nash either must retire, or are slowed enough with injuries to render them ineffective. I see Dwight Howard, frustrated by the intense media scrutiny, the pressure to perform and the less than ideal fit with Mike D'Antoni's system, opting to sign elsewhere...ANYWHERE to get away from this mess. I fear that Kobe (in the final years of what was otherwise a brilliant and wildly entertaining career) could wind up unceremoniously relegated to the status of a 38% jump shooting ball hog on a wholly irrelevant 20 win team...a team whose second best player is a washed up Metta World Peace averaging 12 points per game on 32% shooting.
Remember that the Lakers are WITHOUT any first round picks for nearly half a decade going forward. If this so-called "Super Team" [
] experiment fails as it appears it will, what (if any) possible bright spots remain for a franchise that has all but sold its soul for a few more years of relevance???
The End is nigh. Time for a total Cut and Shuffle. Kobe contract was a mistake...time to avoid making more. The future is here, whether we want it to be or not. An era is over, but for the death rattle, and it's time for the cycle to begin anew. Growth and change are scary and painful, but alas...nothing worth achieving comes easily.