When a child cries in the NBA, he gets to spank his parents. This is one lesson of the Dwight Howard saga, which is finally over, or at least on hiatus, until Howard says he won't re-sign unless his team plays three home games a year on Mars, forcing the franchise to buy Mars rover Curiosity to make it happen.
In the meantime, Howard is a Laker, and how rich is that? He nuked his old franchise in Orlando, establishing himself as the best all-around franchise-destroying star in the NBA. He complained like Carmelo, got his coach fired like Jason Kidd, and ditched adoring fans like LeBron -- and, like all the all-time greats, he brought something new to the game: world-class waffling, which hurt Orlando even more.
Predictably, here is Howard's punishment: He goes to a better team (though not the one he wanted), in a bigger market, and he still gets to sign a full maximum-salary deal with the Lakers next summer.
I don't suppose this matters to anybody, but the owners of the Magic paid Dwight Howard more than $30 million for the past two seasons. How cruel of them. No wonder he was upset.
Say what you want about LeBron James, but he was the best player in the league for Cleveland and really tried to win a championship there with a lousy supporting cast. He left as a free agent, which was his right.
What Howard did was disgraceful -- complete insubordination, a whiny performance by a man who wanted to have his cake and poison his boss' cake, too. Maybe he received bad advice, and maybe he was just young and naïve and oblivious to how he was acting. But when Howard came into the league, everybody praised his character, and when it came time to act like a professional, he completely failed.
Now he gets rewarded. This is life in the NBA. To the spoiled go the victories.
So yeah: That's one lesson of the Howard saga. But it isn't the only one.
I am going to ask you a trivia question, and try to answer it as quickly as possible. I want your gut answer, not necessarily the correct one. Here we go:
Since the NBA instituted its draft lottery in 1985, how many No. 1 overall picks have won a title with their original teams?
Five? Six? Eight?
Try this: two.
David Robinson and Tim Duncan. That's it. And Robinson only did it with Duncan. If you consider Duncan a power forward, Orlando lucked into the two best young centers of the last 20-plus years: Shaquille O'Neal and Howard. And for that, the Magic will get zero rings.
This is the thing that people miss about the NBA. Yes, it is a stars league, but stars alone do not win championships. A star just gives a franchise a head start.
Under former GM Otis Smith, Orlando made the same fundamental mistake that Cleveland did: trying to fast-track to a championship by overpaying for recognizable players, just to placate the star. Rashard Lewis, Antawn Jamison, Mo Williams, Hedo Turkoglu -- they all fall into this category, and the fact that two ended up in Orlando and two in Cleveland is almost beside the point. You could swap them out and history would remain the same.
Meanwhile, Oklahoma City surrounded Kevin Durant with championship-quality talent, especially point guard Russell Westbrook, one of the smartest draft choices of the last decade. We can praise Durant's loyalty all we want, but would he have re-signed with OKC if he was surrounded by J.J. Redick and Jameer Nelson?
The Lakers wisely drafted Andrew Bynum when he was considered an underachieving high school player; without that move, the post-Shaq era in L.A. would look a lot different. And Bynum, of course, was the key piece that brought Howard to Los Angeles.
This trade was a victory for petulance, but also for foresight. Howard has one. He is lucky his new team had the other.