Decisions, decisions. Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak has quite the decision to make in his pursuit of Dwight Howard this summer—a deal that is becoming ever more complicated due to the framework of the new CBA.
According to Kurt Helin of NBC Sports (via Jarrod Rudolph of Real GM), the Lakers will only make a trade if Howard extends:
"Source: Lakers are prepared to offer Andrew Bynum and Metta World Peace to the Magic for Dwight Howard provided Howard signs extension… I’m told the Magic will include Jason Richardson in any deal for Dwight Howard."
Howard could surprise us all and sign an extension with whatever team he gets traded to, including the Lakers, but I'm not holding my breath. Not just because of his personal disposition, but because "holding out" has been delicately built into the new CBA.
The Lakers have to look no further than their crosstown rivals to see its impact in action.
Chris Paul, who will become a free agent next season in 2013, rejected a three-year, $60 million contract extension last week from the Clippers.
While it can be construed that CP3 wants out from the Clippers after next year, turning down contract extensions is simply what players have been handheld to do based on guidance from their agents under the new CBA.
Why would Paul accept a three-year $60 million extension when he can wait until his contract expires and get a max five-year $105 million deal through Bird Rights as a free agent?
Paul's decision is a business one. He and his agent simply displayed a solid understanding of the new CBA, whether he intends to stay with the Clippers or not.
Which brings us back to Howard.
Even if he communicates to the Lakers organization that he wants to re-sign with LA, a complete 180 from his two-day-old declaration that he'll only re-sign with the Brooklyn Nets, he has the choice to accept a shorter contract extension with the team or re-sign for a longer deal as a free agent.
And given the fallible nature of his commitments to Orlando, could Lakers management trust that he'd re-sign with the team if he did in fact become a free agent in the summer of 2013?
Had the language not been placed into the new CBA favoring Bird Rights contract lengths over simple contract extensions, the uncertainty could be eliminated with a solid trade and extend deal.
This is not to say that the two sides couldn't work at an amenable extension.
Perhaps a two-year extension for the opportunity to play alongside Kobe Bryant, followed by the long-term max deal as a free agent after these two years are up?
Or how about signing bonuses and incentives allowable under the CBA? Maybe incorporating the rare "No-Trade" clause into his contract?
If it's all about money and not about winning, then there's a bridge in Brooklyn they're building that Howard might be interested in. (Isn't that how the saying goes?)
But if its about winning, Howard should consider an extension if he gets traded to a championship contender to eliminate any uncertainty regarding his commitment to excellence.
If not, Danny Ferry and the Atlanta Hawks will have all the money in the world waiting for the big man in 2013.