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Ball Don't Lie

Josh Smith: ‘It would be a shock to me’ if Dwight Howard left Los Angeles as a free agent

Kelly Dwyer
Ball Don't Lie

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Dwight Howard and Josh Smith, ponderin' (Getty Images)

Josh Smith is not speaking out of turn nor trying to paint a pretty picture when he talks up Dwight Howard’s loyalty and desire for consistency. The Atlanta Hawks forward has known Howard for over a decade, the two played on the same AAU team in Georgia as teens, and they remain thick friends. It is even being suggested that the Hawks are attempting to clear cap space in order to sign the current Los Angeles Lakers center when he becomes a free agent this summer.

Smith, who will also be a free agent in July, wasn’t attempting to throw cold water on the Hawks’ hope when he spoke with the Los Angeles Daily News’ Mark Medina on Sunday, prior to Los Angeles’ win over Atlanta. And you may chortle of Josh’s choice of words, and think very little of the post-2011 Dwight Howard that we’ve come to know, but Smith isn’t wrong in guessing that Howard remains in Los Angeles. Even if Josh declined to even mention the money involved.

[Related: Dwight Howard takes a swipe at former Magic teammates]

From the Daily News:

“I can’t pick his brain and be in his head but to me, I don’t see him going anywhere,” Smith said before the Lakers hosted the Hawks at Staples Center. “It would be a shock to me.”

Why?

“Dwight is a loyal athlete and loyal person,” Smith said. “He’s not a quitter and doesn’t run from situations. That’s why I believe with this franchise and the way he’s talked so well about it, I can’t see him going anywhere.”

Calling Dwight Howard, the man who asked for his coach to be fired and hung a franchise out to dry with his potential free agent machinations “loyal” is as hilarious as these things get. The first commenter on Medina’s piece said Smith’s take “may be the single stupidest thing any athlete has ever said,” and at the very least it may be the least-aware thing any athlete has said since the press conference where Dwight Howard talked up loyalty while lying to assembled media in Orlando this time last year.

(It’s also worth reminding ourselves that the Magic franchise, not exactly the most self-aware model in the NBA, actually printed up a t-shirt celebrating Howard’s loyalty, just before dealing him to Los Angeles.)

Smith isn’t incorrect, though.

Dwight Howard is the guy that was talked into picking up his player option for 2012-13 with the Magic by roster members of the 2011-12 Orlando Magic. That is to say, “the players that he didn’t want to play with, anymore, coached by the guy he wanted fired.” He may have gone about this mess all wrong, but he’s also the guy that can be talked into staying in Orlando for another year by Jason Richardson. It’s very much true that consistency is what he’s after. As we all are.

[Also: Kobe disagrees with Blake Griffin's reaction to Serge Ibaka's groin shot]

Now, compare a plane ride back to Orlando in March – the meeting that preceded Howard’s decision to decline his early termination option that would have made him a free agent last summer – with what the Los Angeles Lakers can offer in July. The Lakers might not even make the playoffs, but they can send Jim Buss, Mitch Kupchak, and all manner of sweets and goodies to Dwight Howard’s sky box at Dodger Stadium on a gorgeous July afternoon in three months. Kobe Bryant, that really mean guy that demands accountability, doesn’t even have to be involved.

Again – the Orlando Magic contributed candy and Glen Davis. The Los Angeles Lakers, even on the heels of a disappointing season, can contribute far much more to the decision-making process.

That’s not getting into, nearly 600 words later, the fact that Dwight Howard can make way, way more money as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers if he re-signs this summer.

The Lakers can offer an extra guaranteed season and almost $30 million more over the course of his contract – a contract that could outlast both Bryant, coach Mike D’Antoni, and certainly Pau Gasol’s time in Los Angeles. The NBA’s latest Collective Bargaining Agreement has made it incredibly tough for players to turn down incumbent teams offering maximum contracts, teams paying the luxury tax cannot engage in sign-and-trade maneuvers for Howard, and it’s even unclear if teams like Dallas or Atlanta will have the cap space needed to attempt to approximate Los Angeles’ expected offer.

Which makes Smith, in a way, the last of his kind for a while. Josh Smith may be offered a giant deal by the Hawks this summer, but newish Atlanta GM Danny Ferry may be cooling on sending max money at a player that hasn’t made an All-Star team (though he’s certainly earned a selection or two) and still has issues with shot selection – witness Smith’s ohfer six performance at the free throw line in the one-point loss on Sunday, along with his 1-4 showing from behind the arc in a season where he’s shot just under 32 percent from long range. Smith might be that rare star that, even given the warming notes of the new CBA, might choose to go elsewhere.

Or, might “have” to go elsewhere; if Atlanta bargains indifferently.

Smith’s shot selection may be wrong, but he’s not wrong in the slightest about what Dwight Howard is after. The only problem here is that Dwight Howard, two disappointing seasons and two fired coaches later, is going about getting what he wants completely wrong. His loyalty to wrongness cannot be questioned.

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