Lakers Rumors: LA Should Make Strong Push for Josh Howard Before Deadline

Tim DanielsFeatured ColumnistMarch 15, 2012

OAKLAND, CA - JANUARY 07:  Josh Howard #8 of the Utah Jazz in action against the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena on January 7, 2012 in Oakland, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Josh Howard is being chased by several teams, according to Marc Spears of Yahoo! Sports, but no team needs him more than the Los Angeles Lakers. He would provide a major boost to a stagnant rotation that isn't currently prepared for a championship run.

The Utah Jazz, who signed Howard during the offseason, haven't shown a willingness to make a deal, based on a report from Brian T. Smith of the Salt Lake Tribune. That shouldn't stop the Lakers from making a last-ditch effort to land him, however.

A source close to Howard told the Salt Lake Tribune on Tuesday they were unaware of any trade involving the veteran small forward. Yahoo! reported the Jazz are reluctant to trade Howard, who has worked his way into Utah's starting lineup and is well-liked by his coaches and teammates.

Teams almost always say they aren't looking to deal certain players, even if they actually are. It's usually an attempt to drive up the price to maximum value. Nobody knows if that's what the Jazz are doing here, but it's certainly a possibility.

Howard is an unrestricted free agent at season's end, so Utah would be better off getting something from the Lakers for him rather than let him walk away for nothing. The Jazz are two games out of a playoff spot, and will probably fade down the stretch without any upgrades.

The veteran forward should jump at an opportunity to join Los Angeles. He'd represent an immediate upgrade over Metta World Peace to help the Lakers push themselves back into the contender category.

Howard has been playing much better as of late, reaching double digits in nine of his last 11 games. It's no surprise teams took notice and hoped to snag him for cheap, but the Jazz were wise to those plans.

Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak needs to be active before the deadline passes to ensure his team is prepared for another playoff run. The main pieces, namely Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, remain in place, but depth additions are necessary.

He should at least call Jazz GM Kevin O'Connor one more time to see if the team is willing to budge. Maybe an extra draft pick will force the team to change their stance on Howard. There doesn't seem to be a reason for Utah to keep him.

Howard would be exactly the type of player the Lakers need to make a strong run down the stretch and into the playoffs. He doesn't fill the point-guard void, but he's the next best thing.