Dwight doesn't have guts to leave Lakers, endure media assault

Fallout would be far greater than the anguish in Orlando

You have nothing to worry about, L.A.

Trust me, Lakers fans, there is no need to fret about Dwight Howard.

There are those of you who are naturally comparing your uncertain situation to what we went through in Orlando during "Dwightmare 1." But believe me when I tell you this is no sequel. This is not "Dwightmare 2: Horror in Hollywood."

You see, Dwight Howard is too much of a Dwight Coward to leave the Los Angeles Lakers like he left the Orlando Magic. He doesn't have the intestinal fortitude to do it. He's not tough enough to endure the flood of criticism from the national media that would surely come if he left the exalted, illustrious, grandiloquent Lakers.

When he abandoned Orlando, the only people who truly cared were the Orlando fans and local media. If he leaves the Lakers, the entire NBA media power structure will destroy him. Stephen A. Smith and the army of babbling bobbleheads will castigate him on ESPN. Shaq and Charles Barkley will emasculate him on TNT. Adrian Wojnarowski and Bill Simmons will annihilate him on the national websites.

Let's face it, there are many in the national media who are cheerleaders for teams in the big markets. Simmons is famous for rooting for the Boston Celtics. Magic Johnson doesn't just root for the Lakers; he was a part-owner of the team for several years. Michael Wilbon grew up in Chicago and is a Bulls fan.

This is not a knock on them; just a fact. And the fact is that if you live and work in New York or L.A. or Chicago, you're going to hear, read and talk the most about the teams in your city. Likewise, because a person works in the media, that individual is going to want the biggest stars playing in the city where that journalist works. Any media member who says otherwise is a liar. Full disclosure: I wish LeBron, Dwight, Kevin Durant and Steph Curry all played for the Magic.

Case in point: Stephen A. when Dwight decided to waive his opt-out clause last season and give the Magic an extra year to either sign him or trade him. Dwight's decision effectively killed the master plan of the Brooklyn Nets, who were trying to acquire Dwight to pair with Deron Williams for the grand opening of their new arena this season.

In the aftermath, Smith went on ESPN and indignantly claimed that Dwight owed his hometown team — Brooklyn — an apology. That's right, a superstar player decided to give little ol' Orlando a one-year reprieve and Smith's take was essentially ... Who cares about Orlando; New York is owed an apology!

If you take Smith's criticism after Dwight supposedly stiffed Brooklyn and multiply it by 100, you begin to get an idea of the outrage Dwight will elicit if he leaves the storied Lakers. And it won't just be the national media that condemns him; it will be the millions and millions of Lakers fans worldwide.

Deep down, Dwight knows the Lakers are not the best fit for him. He never wanted to become a Laker in the first place. He never wanted to follow in Shaq's footsteps. He never wanted to be Kobe Bryant's designated rebounder. He let his flunkies convince him that he needed a bigger market to become the mega-star he wanted to be. Instead, his stature and profile has shrunk and shriveled in L.A.

It's like ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy told me earlier this season: "I think Dwight thought he wanted a big market, but I think what he's realizing is that he needs a smaller environment where the fans and media overlook whatever weaknesses he has. He had it great in Orlando, and I think only after you leave do you realize just how good you had it. Unfortunately, you can't go back home again."

Actually, you can go back home. Maybe not to Orlando, but Dwight could easily sign with his hometown team — the Atlanta Hawks. Or he could sign with the young, exciting Houston Rockets. He'd be better off in either of those cities, playing for teams whose fans and media won't crush and criticize him if the team doesn't win a championship.

But we all know that's not going to happen. Dwight left Orlando even though he said he wanted to stay. And he will stay in L.A. even though he wants to leave.

Sadly, Dwight doesn't make decisions with his heart.

His spine — or lack thereof — just won't allow it.

mbianchi@tribune.com. Follow him on Twitter @BianchiWrites. Listen to his radio show every weekday from 6 to 9 a.m. on 740 AM

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