Miami Heat

David J. Neal: While Miami Heat tinkers, Los Angeles Lakers panic

Well, we know one team that doesn’t need to bat its eyes at free agent center Dwight Howard as the NBA’s open market begins. Freed from that exercise and with all options picked up, the Heat can focus on wooing center Chris Andersen to stay.

And maybe sitting back to see what minor roster surgery it needs to commit.

With what do you tinker?

Fans like to see championship teams stay as last seen lifting the big trophy, feeling those they have fallen in love with will deliver the same final result.

But that rarely happens. Something in the brew must change or the flavor falls flat.

It’s a delicate tweak. Heat players know each other. They’re comfortable with each other. That’s important. Navigating locker room personalities and cliques can be akin to getting around Detroit, where every highway seems to cross the same streets and there’s no easy numbering system.

Heat players don’t have to navigate locker room life. They simply live it. That allows them to function with the communication and caring a healthy family should.

“Each team, each player on a team, is a web of dependencies, personal and professional, positive and negative, many of which can only be guessed at beforehand,” wrote Hall of Fame goalie Ken Dryden in The Game.

Dryden spoke of trades, but could have meant any change when he wrote at the end of the same paragraph, “If a team doesn’t agree with a trade, it will feel let down, using the trade as a crutch whenever it needs it, often before …”

The Juwan Howard midseason signing seemed strange. It would seem even stranger if you knew that had been planned long before Howard officially rejoined the team.

You wonder why bring back a 40-year-old at the end of the bench and his career … until you hear about Howard getting everyone’s attention with a locker room speech during Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals.

So, the Heat really should bring back Andersen, this year’s roster adjustment.

That’ll be an easier task than that faced by Los Angeles’ second-best team. The Lakers, the franchise that attracted Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Shaquille O’Neal to ask to be traded to them, now find themselves putting up billboards begging a nine-year veteran with primitive offensive skills to stay with them (after he politicked himself into a trade there).

Lakers executive vice president of business operations Jeanie Buss tweeted that the “Lakers offer 1) best opportunities for your playing & post-playing career 2) have BEST fans 3) I’m here for you #STAYD12.”

That tweet hit at 1:09 p.m. Tuesday, got captured by several websites and got retweeted by several folks. Buss deleted it soon after, on her way to not being in the Lakers’ Tuesday meeting with Howard. Dallas and Houston also are on the woo for Howard.

Can you imagine former Lakers ace general manager Jerry West or Jeanie’s late father, longtime Lakers owner Jerry Buss, doing anything like that even for Kareem or Magic Johnson?

It’s the kind of degradation that could have Jerry Buss spinning in his grave while earning a ghostly laugh from Theodore Lodigensky that such a comedown is the way of all flesh in Hollywood.

Lodigensky is the Czarist Russian general who wound up working as an extra in Hollywood after the Russian Revolution. Lodigensky’s humiliating story wound up filmed as The Last Command with Emil Jannings winning the first Best Actor Oscar for playing the Lodigensky role (and the lead in The Way of All Flesh).

Unfortunately for the Lakers, they’re in this position because current GM Mitch Kupchak is even further from West as a GM than he was from Hall of Famer West as a player. Kupchak didn’t analyze what he was getting in Howard and how he fit with what they had, personally and professionally. He didn’t do what the Heat has done so well (with some exceptions) over the past 17 years.

Which is why one team now puts up billboards celebrating championships and tries to figure out how to stay there and a former champion puts up billboards trying to keep from falling to relevance-only-by-good-name.

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