You thought the “Dwightmare” was over, right?
Well unfortunately, it looks to be making its slow and steady return.
The Lakers suffered yet another devastating loss Thursday night, losing to the Boston Celtics 116-95. Prior to their blowout loss in Boston, however, the Lakers’ locker room has begun dividing.
The issue at hand was, and still is, Dwight Howard’s shoulder. Howard had missed the last three games with a re-aggravated right shoulder, stemming from the torn labrum he’s been dealing with for the past month.
The Lakers’ backcourt tandem, Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash, were quoted before the game urging Howard to show a sense of urgency and play through the pain of his injury.
Bryant eluded to ESPNBoston.com that, “We don’t have time for [Howard's shoulder] to heal. We need some urgency. Pain is something that you have to balance out and manage.”
Howard, along with Metta World Peace to some extent, opposed these views.
Howard fired back, specifically at Bryant, saying, “That’s his opinion; that’s it. He’s not a doctor. I’m not a doctor. That’s his opinion.”
Howard also spoke directly about his future and the effect this injury could have on his career, via ESPNLA’s Dave McMenamin:
“I want to play,” Howard said at Thursday’s shoot-around. “I mean, why wouldn’t I want to play? But at the same time, this is my career, this is my future, this is my life.
“I can’t leave that up to anybody else because nobody else is going to take care of me. So, if people are pissed off that I don’t play or if I do play, whatever it may be, so what? This is my career. If I go down, then what? Everybody’s life is going to go on.
“I don’t want to have another summer where I’m rehabbing and trying to get healthy again. I want to come back and have another great year. That’s what I want to do.”
With Pau Gasol out indefinitely with a partially torn plantar fascia, Howard did little to step in and help the Lakers against Boston. Howard fouled out in just 28 minutes of play, registering 9 points on 4-8 shooting, 9 rebounds and 4 turnovers.
After the game, coach Mike D’Antoni explained that Howard in fact could have played earlier than Thursday:
“Yeah, he’s been cleared for a while,” D’Antoni said. “I mean, he’s always clear because he has a tear. It’s going to be there but he had pain, so obviously he’s not going to play with the pain, and he felt better today. That’s why he played.”
According to CSNNE.com’s Jimmy Toscano, however, Howard had a completely different story:
“I can’t get involved with what they’ve been saying to the media,” Howard said. “I understand they’ve been saying certain things, but I know my health. I haven’t been cleared for weeks to play.
“This is my body, and I have to control my body and my future and my career. So I can’t worry about anybody else.”
As a result, Howard has made it quite clear that “his” body and “his” career are first and foremost to him. For Howard, those two things clearly take precedent over the Lakers.
A “me” before “we” attitude can’t bode well with Howard’s teammates either, and certainly not with the front office that brought him to Los Angeles. Subsequently, this disconnection between Howard and the Lakers is becoming clearer and clearer by the day.
There lies a major problem. Although Howard has publicly admitted that he has learned from his mistakes in Orlando, it seems he has figured out a new way to cause drama.
This time, however, it is not just an issue between himself and his coach, but instead the problem arises between his personal aspirations and the collective urgency of the franchise.
Howard’s focus on his own future, rather than the present, is a telling sign of where his true commitment resides.
The Lakers, on the other hand, have their sights set on this year and this year alone. With over a $100 million payroll and an aging Kobe Bryant leading the way, the window of opportunity for another Lakers’ championship is quickly closing.
As soon-to-be free agent, Dwight Howard, explicitly points out, his future in Los Angeles is in the Lakers’ hands. He, however, sees that future slowly slipping away:
“Hopefully they’ll start supporting me the way they need to,” Howard told CSNNE.com. “Until then, I’m going to continue to do whatever I can to help our team win.”
This is inevitably leading us down the path towards “Dwightmare pt. 2″—yet this time, it is Dwight Howard vs. Lakers.
Unfortunately for the Lakers, they do not have a head coach with the ability, nor the respect, to command this dividing locker room, and steer it in the right direction. With D’Antoni’s standoffish style of management as well as his non-confrontational demeanor, this issue will continue to fester.
The bottom line comes down to whether or not the Lakers’ players want to salvage this season. With little prospects of change coming at the head coaching position, this turnaround must come from within the locker room.
As of right now though, this complete and utter disconnect between Howard and the Lakers is harming the chemistry on the court.
This strict divide, between a team with one set of goals and a player with his own set of goals, is what may eventually end the Lakers’ aspirations of making Howard the future face of the franchise.