The questions started almost as soon as Dwight Howard was ejected from Sunday's Game Four loss to the Spurs: Will Dwight Howard re-sign with the Lakers?
Of all the players who struggled on the Lakers and led to this disappointing season, Howard was alone with the most to lose. His legacy was not set and would be written in the coming months and years. And in 2012-13, he failed to inspire much, leaving people to legitimately ask whether he was worth the $100 million he is likely to receive this summeri n the form of a max contract.
Kobe Bryant had his championships. Pau Gasol had his. Steve Nash had his MVPs.
Howard was added to the mix to be another star player, the one to lead the Lakers into the future and back to championship glory after a two-year hiatus of embarrassing Playoff defeats and an agitated and (unwillingly) aging Kobe Bryant. With Bryant out for the postseason, Howard was supposed to carry the team forward.
And he failed miserably.
Following a year of toying with the Magic organization over his future, the moment of truth is finally hear for Dwight Howard.
The decision was supposed to be easy this time around. With the All-Star cast around him, success would come easily and Howard (healthy, of course) would be able to be the player he always imagined in the market he wanted. Sports Illustrated put Howard on the cover of its NBA Preview issue with the headline: "Now, this is going to be fun."
The season was not fun. One controversy and injury led to the next, ultimately ending in that sweep. Howard may have averaged 17.1 points per game (his lowest since his second year in the league) and a leagu-best 12.4 rebounds per game, the fifth time in the last six years he has done that. But he still described the season as a "nightmare."
Now the fun begins again as speculation over whether he will re-sign in Los Angeles picks up again. Howard said following Sunday's loss that he will take a few weeks to reflect before thinking about his future. But that does not re-assure anyone. He fully intends to go through with the circus that is his free agency -- an extended run that began in December 2011 when he publicly stated he has asked the Magic to trade him and the rumors that started running wild from there.
Steve Nash, for what it is worth, thinks Howard will remain a Laker. He told Brian Kamenetzky of Land O Lakers that he feels Los Angeles is the right place for him.
I'm very hopeful that Dwight will be back. I think this is the place for him. He's in the prime of his career, he's got his best years ahead of him, he can play for one of the greatest franchises in sports in an amazing city. So this has got to be the place for him. I'm hopeful that he sees it that way, and hopefully as teammates we can be here to support him through this, and find him back here with us July 1st.
Of course, nobody really knows what Dwight is after.
The weight of that Lakers franchise seemed to slow him down and lead to more problems as Howard regressed both statistically and regressed in his maturation. For a second straight year, he came off as a spoiled star upset he was not getting his way.
Rightly or wrongly, Howard's Q score has suffered in a way only winning and dominating can fix.
Now Howard enters the uncertainty of his own free agency and has to come to terms with what he wants. Everyone will be waiting.
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