Kragthorpe: Lakers grabbing Dwight Howard changes nothing for Jazz
NBA • Even without Howard and Nash, Lakers have still dominated Utah in playoffs.
Published: September 22, 2012 01:46PM
Updated: September 4, 2012 04:39PM
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Kurt Kragthorpe

The Jazz were feeling fairly good about their summer’s work and their hopes of moving up in the Western Conference until a big trade sent a key player to one of their rivals.

Yeah, Andre Iguodala definitely will help the Denver Nuggets.

Dwight Howard’s joining the Los Angeles Lakers also affects the Jazz — even though Howard may not appear at EnergySolutions Arena this season. His back injury could prevent him playing Nov. 7, during the Lakers’ only visit of 2012-13.

Howard’s arrival in Los Angeles changes the look of the West, especially considering the Lakers previously signed Steve Nash and did not have to move Pau Gasol to acquire Howard. But the conspiracy talk needs to stop, right here and now.

It’s true that another team in one of the NBA’s biggest markets landed another of the league’s biggest stars, but this was a fair trade. Three others teams were involved in the deal, and they were happy enough with what they got in return.

Obviously, the Jazz would have preferred Orlando’s trading Howard to Brooklyn instead of the Lakers. Even with the Jazz’s upgrading their roster with Mo Williams, Marvin Williams and Randy Foye, competing with the Lakers in the West will be very difficult for them.

That’s nothing new, though. Even without Nash and Howard, the Lakers eliminated the Jazz from the playoffs three straight years, from 2008-10.

So even if winning the West any time soon seems just about impossible, the opportunity is still there for the Jazz to improve incrementally. That’s what they should be trying to do, and that’s what fans should expect of them. The franchise’s mid-range goal should be to gain home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs (via a top-four finish), which the Jazz have not enjoyed since 2001 — even before the end of the Stockton-Malone era.

Howard’s becoming a Laker did not make that goal any less achievable.

kkragthorpe@sltrib.com

Twitter: @tribkurt