To title behind Howard

Baxter Holmes

Los Angeles Times

The Lakers and Celtics have been knotted at 17 championships each, but Dwight Howard will lead the tiebreaking charge.

Yes, Virginia, Kobe Bryant will have as many rings — six — as Michael Jordan.

Oh, there's a season to be played? Semantics. Howard's back will be fine and the Lakers will roll through the West before meeting the Heat for it all.

And there, you won't see LeBron James and company in the paint nearly as much as they are accustomed. Instead, you'll see Howard's muscle-bound presence, keeping them at bay.

Great centers don't come along often, but when they do, they don purple and gold and end up as champions.

Mr. Howard, you're next in line.

bholmes@tribune.com

To Finals before falling

K.C. Johnson

Chicago Tribune

The Lakers will win the West and lose to the Heat in the NBA Finals.

Adding Dwight Howard and Steve Nash will add juice to an offense that stagnated too often last season for one that included Kobe Bryant. Nash's outside shooting, long overlooked because of his pick-and-roll prowess in Phoenix, will provide spacing for Bryant and Howard. Pau Gasol moves into deadly pick-and-pop range. And what's the over/under for alley-oops from Nash to Howard? They'll exceed it.

Howard, the game's top defender, fits well into coach Mike Brown's schemes. Nevertheless, LeBron James has tasted triumph and he's shifting into seeking dynasty mode. James is the game's best player now. He and Dwyane Wade will carry the offensive burden to a repeat.