Dwight Howard Joins Lakers; NBA’s Super Team Era Officially begins.


By now, I’m sure you’ve heard that the big news. It was nearly impossible to get away from, of course.

Tim Tebow turns 25 today.

Oh, that wasn’t the news you were expecting to hear? You must have been thinking about Dwight Howard then.

The former Orlando Magic center was (finally) traded to the Los Angeles Lakers last week as part of a four-team trade in which he was the centerpiece. The move ended nearly two full years of speculation by Howard regarding his future.

Howard had not previously been too keen on the idea of playing for the Lakers, and still may not be. Upon completion of the trade, he mentioned that he will not be signing an extension with the Lakers, but would go through free agency. That could be Howard wanting to make the most money possible in the new CBA, or maybe he wants to see who can come up with cap space between now and then. We won’t know until that time comes.

All we know right now is that the Lakers have found themselves back on the list of contenders after a two-year absence. All it took was acquiring two All-Star caliber talents for a few draft picks and their own All-Star center.

To think that it would even be possible to acquire Steve Nash for two first-round picks and two second round picks was pretty insane, but acquiring Dwight Howard and surrendering only Andrew Bynum and Josh McRoberts? That’s borderline criminal activity.

Imagine that you have a 2009 Camaro SS. You’ve got the V8, it’s a 6 speed and it’s even a convertible. It’s a fine a car, probably the envy of every dude that you know. Now imagine that a dealer comes up to you and offers you the 2013 Camaro SS convertible with the exact same specs as your car and all you have to do is give them your car.

Does that sound too good to be true? That’s probably because it is, and wouldn’t normally happen under most circumstances. But circumstances like that always seem to be in play for the Lakers.

The other effect sent ripples and has probably re-shaped the entire league. Howard joining the Lakers has officially begun the Superteam era.

You thought that LeBron started that era? Or maybe the Celtics when they traded for Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to join Paul Pierce? That’s small potatoes compared to what the Lakers’ brass has now started.

First of all, Boston didn’t stack the deck in their pursuit of a championship. They made two very savvy trades that gave the Celtics what appeared to be a very limited window to win a championship, at least at the time.

James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh did make a conscious decision to team up, but as we’ve found out the past two seasons, that doesn’t necessarily guarantee a championship by any stretch of the imagination. The Heat came up short in the 2011 NBA Finals and while they did win the 2012 World Championship, they were pushed in their last two series in the Eastern Conference playoffs and even dropped game 1 to the Thunder before winning four straight.

The point is that at no point did anyone ever think that the Heat or Celtics were unbeatable. They were quite good, but all of their hype only won them one championship apiece to date.

With Howard now in Los Angeles, things have changed for everyone. Gone are the days that you get an All-Star and become a contender almost immediately. If you only have one All-Star caliber player now, you’re a bottom four seed and probably first-round fodder. If you have two, your chances are significantly improved but even in that scenario, you probably end up having to win three series against the other super teams in a row. That’s a lot to ask of anyone, isn’t it?

Just these past two years, the Chicago Bulls went from also-rans to championship contender and they had one All-Star on their roster (though Luol Deng did make the team in 2012) but at the start of the 2012-2013 they’ll be an afterthought. A lot of that has to do with Rose’s knee injury, but a lot of that has to do with moves made by other Eastern contenders. The Heat added Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis to last year’s World Championship roster, the Nets re-signed Deron Williams and acquired Joe Johnson from the Hawks. They also kept Gerald Wallace and Brook Lopez around as well. The 76ers just acquired Andrew Bynum, and while they did give up quite a lot (Andre Iguodala, Moe Harkless and Nikola Vucevic) they now have a nice team on paper that would be capable of hanging with anyone in the league.

These moves weren’t made in response to what the Lakers have done, but only because not enough time has passed. Which team will make this realization next? The Bulls seem poised to do so, but who could they acquire? Every other great player in the league is already on someone else’s team. Kevin Love may not be totally happy in Minnesota, but he just signed an extension and it will be two years before he’s ready to move on from there. By that time, maybe Rose himself will be the next superstar that wants out of his situation.

f course, having three great players isn’t always a cure-all. The New York Knicks have been a perpetually crummy franchise for years now and while they were busy stockpiling veterans Raymond Felton, Marcus Camby and Jason Kidd, they also allowed Jeremy Lin to walk to Houston, succumbing to the luxury tax for the first time ever, probably. Now the Knicks are capped out and have few young players to get any sort of contribution from. Lin would have been the Knicks’ fourth best player, but now they’ll be forced to hope that Iman Shumpert can recover fully from a torn ACL that he suffered in the playoffs.

The super team era has officially begun, NBA fans. If you’re surprised by this, you shouldn’t be. It’s been coming for a few years, but with the Lakers finally landing the biggest fish in the pond, it has arrived. If you root for a team that has a super team, congratulations. Your front office knows how to keep up with the Joneses (or Combses if you’re a P. Diddy fan). If they have one All-Star, you can probably make the playoffs, but it may be time to start thinking about how you’re going to join the arms race. If your team has no All-Stars, I hope the lottery is kind to you because it’s the only way that you’re going to see any progress for the foreseeable future.

The super team era will definitely make for some fun basketball, but it may also make you long for the way things used to be when the league’s 24 All-Stars resided on 20 different teams and one awesome head-to-head match-up was enough to catch your interest. It wasn’t that long time ago, but it’s getting farther and farther away all the time.