LOS ANGELES — Prince Fielder did not win the most significant home run derby of 2012 in Kansas City, Mo.
You can credit Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak as the biggest victors, crushing the longest of long shots in the executive offices of the Los Angeles Lakers, one story above their practice court in El Segundo.
Kupchak, the Lakers' general manager, created the home run metaphor innocently enough on a day of relative insignificance in late June, when the Lakers selected a pair of late second-rounders in the NBA draft who appear unlikely to make the team.
“We'll try to hit a home run,” Kupchak said at the time of the Lakers' attempts to land a marquee player in free agency.
Did they ever.
If Steve Nash was a three-run homer that gave the Lakers the lead in their division late in the regular season, then Dwight Howard was a 500-foot walk-off grand slam in the World Series.
Go ahead and mark it down, with a Sharpie: The Lakers will make it back to the Finals in 2013. And they will win it.
The addition of Howard, which will become official once the league ratifies the proposed four-team, eight-player deal also involving the Orlando Magic, Denver Nuggets and Philadelphia 76ers, gives the Lakers the most sparkle in their lineup since the team of Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and James Worthy rocked the Forum on a nightly basis.
These Lakers might upstage even Showtime.
In Howard, the team is getting a considerable upgrade over Andrew Bynum, even though the latter player was easily the league's second-best center.
With Howard, Lakers fans won't have to wonder whether their starting center has come to play on game nights. A three-time NBA defensive player of the year, Howard brings the consistency and tenacity that the fickle, oversized-headphone-wearing Bynum could only dream about.
Sound off: How will Dwight Howard in LA impact OKC?