That's not the surprise. The surprise is that Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak is willing to take on Howard and give up Andrew Bynum without a guarantee that Howard re-signs with the team.
That is nuts given what the Lakers are trying to accomplish.
As Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News reports, however, that's not a concern of the Lakers:
“Lakers no longer demanding contract assurances from Dwight Howard in trade talks, reportedly dlvr.it/1pr8ff” bad news for Nets— Stefan Bondy (@NYDNInterNets) July 6, 2012
In addition to not requiring a commitment from Howard, the Lakers are willing to absorb salary, reportedly the $18.6 million owed to Jason Richardson for the next three years, according to Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times.
Key development in Lakers' pursuit of Dwight Howard: They're more open to taking back contract of G-F Jason Richardson (3 yrs, $18.6 mill).— Mike Bresnahan (@Mike_Bresnahan) July 11, 2012
That's all fine with an extension from Howard, but it makes very little sense without it.
With Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Bynum, the Lakers are championship contenders for the next three years.
The same, naturally, goes for Howard if he's signed. If not, you’re banking on a one-year run at a championship—and then what?
If Howard would leave after one season, the Lakers are stuck with another bad contract in Richardson's and are really in the same boat that they are in right now.
Not only that, but the Lakers lose what is their biggest strength—superior length. Without Howard or Bynum paired next to Gasol, the Lakers become much smaller and not as tough in the paint.
I'm all for bringing Howard aboard if they can keep him in a Lakers uniform.
I don't want to hear any of the "once he's here and sees how much he likes it then he will want to stay" talk. That's too big of a risk to take with the future of the franchise.
The Lakers are in a spot where they can legitimately compete for a championship for at least the next three years.
In order to do so, they must have Howard or Bynum in uniform for the duration of that span.
Putting the future in jeopardy on the hope that Howard will re-sign with the Lakers if traded is nuts.
If Kupchak plays his cards wrong and acquires Howard only to watch him walk after a year, the franchise is in trouble.
Entering the 2013-14 season, they will have a 39-year-old Nash, a 34-year-old Bryant and a 33-year-old Gasol. They may be able to compete with that, but what's clear is the future of the Lakers will be in jeopardy.
There will be no player in his prime or no young talent to potentially build around.
That's why it's extremely important that if Kupchak rolls the dice that he doesn't crap out.
He has to see the bigger picture here and anything less than Howard's name on a contract extension could prove to be way too big of a risk.