When Del Harris became the Lakers’ coach he had a conversation with center Shaquille O’Neal one day after practice.
I was listening and he didn’t care.
“Shaq,’ he began, ‘the only way coaches and centers are judged in this league is on how many championships they win. Nothing else comes close.”
In recent days, as the Lakers were proclaimed a championship contender by the media after they obtained Dwight Howard, that conversation popped into my mind.
The Lakers look good now. They have Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant at guards, Howard at center and Pau Gasol and Metta World Peace, the former Ron Artest at forward. Their weak bench has been bolstered recently and it may be all right.
But here’s a fact that can’t be ignored. Neither their coach or their center have a championship on their resume.
Howard, generally regarded as the best center in the NBA after being named an all-star four times, has the same number of championship -- none.
Each season Orlando attempted to upgrade its roster by bringing in shooters to surround the big man. But the chemistry was never right.
So here we are. This will be a most interesting Laker season, but it is filled with question marks.
There’s only one basketball, and who controls it? Nash, Bryant, Howard?
Last season Brown created an offense that cut Gasol out of his favorite spots on the floor, and Gasol said he had never been asked to play that way. Owner Jim Buss is on record saying Gasol will be stationed closer to the basket this season.
Bynum was young, erratic and immature. Howard has those tendencies too. They’re both 24 and talented but it remains to be seen if Howard will grow u anytime soon.
As for Bynum, he had the talent to take his place among the great Laker centers of the past. But, ultimately, his behavior got him a ticket to Philadelphia.
Howard underwent back surgery last season and missed the latter portion of Orlando’s season. It isn’t known if he’ll be able to play when the Laker season begins at the end of October.
And it isn’t known if he’ll be with the Lakers more than one season. He refuses to sign an extension and will become a free agent after one season here.
Dallas has made no secret of the fact it wants him and has the salary cap room for him.
I don’t like controversy and drama in my life but everyone is different. Howard seems to thrive on it.
Mike brown is a good guy, the kind I’d like to see succeed. But Del Harris is right. Another season without a championship would make things tough for him.