Q: I'm sure you're glad, like the rest of us, that this Dwight-mare is over. But did the Lakers make out as big as being credited? They already had an All-Star center, and now they have another one. Why would this move put them over the top?
-- Roland, Portland, Ore.
A: First, I'm not sure it necessarily will. Oklahoma City still will have a say in the West, as will San Antonio.
Beyond that, your point is valid, in that the Lakers already had the best center in the Western Conference before the Dwight Howard trade, and opponents already had to account for the height of Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol. An argument even could be made that the upgrade on offense from Bynum to Howard is not that significant (defense clearly is another story).
You are correct that if Howard was dealt to any other team, even the Knicks (who already have Tyson Chandler) or the Pacers (who already have Roy Hibbert), the difference in the middle would have been absolute. With the Lakers, it falls into the mere upgrade realm.
If you were to quantify the difference between this season's Lakers and last season's Lakers, it is the overall package that is the game-changer, with Steve Nash a huge upgrade over Ramon Sessions (or Derek Fisher) at point guard, Antawn Jamison in place to provide some of what Lamar Odom previously provided, and Jodie Meeks likely to offer more than Jason Kapano did from distance during his brief tryout at the start of last season.
The Lakers, as a team, are far, far better than they were last season, partially, but not solely, because of Howard.
The very success with Howard could come down to his willingness to play as a featured part of an ensemble, rather than the definitive primary focus he had been for his entire career in Orlando.
Q: Carmelo Anthony showed at the end of last season and then at the Olympics that he can be LeBron James or Kobe Bryant for the Knicks. Isn't it time he gets featured as much at the Garden?
-- Ben, Sheepshead Bay, N.Y.
A: First, he was featured practically to excess once Mike Woodson took over last season from Mike D'Antoni as Knicks coach, and figures to be cast in a similar fashion this coming season.
But the Carmelo we witnessed in the Olympics was a far cry from the iso Carmelo featured by Woodson all the way through the first round of last season's playoffs.
In London, Anthony played as a complementary scorer, mostly a catch-and-shoot presence, a role he filled to perfection. With the Knicks, he is asked to do far more.
To a degree, the Knicks have gotten away from the value of Amare Stoudemire since Anthony arrived. What the Olympics showed is that Carmelo might be capable of greater success when playing in rhythm with another star, instead of his own.
And that could come down to the Knicks' point guard situation. Therein lies the value of Jason Kidd, who might find Anthony in his sweet spot in much the same way he did with Dirk Nowitzki in Dallas. Of course, Kidd figures to be coming off the bench, with Anthony foremost going to have to make it work with Raymond Felton. And that is no slam dunk.
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
Q: Dwight this; Dwight that. What about my Clippers? They have been as busy as anyone this summer.
-- Felipe, Torrance, Calif.
A: In terms of known-quantity volume, you might be right, with the offseason additions of Jamal Crawford, Lamar Odom, Grant Hill, Willie Green and Ronny Turiaf, as well as getting Chauncey Billups back from injury.
The common theme there, though, is that each of the Clippers' acquisitions has seen better days, each on the downside. That isn't the case with the Lakers and Howard, or, for that matter, with what the Clippers landed last offseason in Chris Paul.
Unlike the Lakers, who added a star attraction in Howard, or, for that matter, the Nets, who added a definitive co-star in Joe Johnson, what the Clippers accomplished this offseason was strengthening the supporting cast behind Paul and Blake Griffin.
PBT: The Pacers were too tough for the Knicks, but Miami is a different animal. The clubs face off in the East finals, starting Wednesday night.
Rotoworld: The Cavaliers won the draft lottery on Tuesday night, and the latest mock gives them the big man with the highest upside.
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