Is Los Angeles Lakers Play for Dwight Howard One Massive Publicity Stunt?

Stephen BabbFeatured ColumnistJuly 20, 2012

Apr 07, 2012; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard (12) during the fourth quarter against the Philadelphia 76ers at the Wells Fargo Center. The Magic defeated the Sixers 88-82. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-US PRESSWIRE

We can't know the inner workings of the minds of the Los Angeles Lakers' front-office movers and shakers. Nor can we seriously discount the possibility that the team is genuinely interested in landing superstar center Dwight Howard.

It's hard to deny the big man would make an impact.

Nevertheless, it's worth pondering whether this trade talk is the product of legitimate interest or is instead some kind of ruse orchestrated to keep the public engaged and excited about the franchise.

Of course, there could always be some truth to both scenarios.

It's just that something doesn't quite add up here.

General manager Mitch Kupchak has never been one to show his cards. Pau Gasol and Steve Nash were on Los Angeles' doorstep before anyone knew such possibilities were more than musings and fanciful speculation.

The D12 rumors wouldn't be the first time this summer that Kupchak has drummed up chatter. 

After the Lakers took it on the chin from the Oklahoma City Thunder in the second round of the Western Conference Finals, the GM quickly began making some noise (via ESPN's Dave McMenamin): 

"There will be some change," Kupchak said Wednesday after finishing exit interviews with all but one player on the Lakers' roster. He and Kobe Bryant will meet either late this week or early next week near Bryant's home in Newport Beach, Calif. "There will be a bit of activity July 1st, looking at who we can bring back and dealing with the marketplace."

Of course, these kinds of sentiments do more than stir up intrigue among offseason aficionados.

They also send a message to those Angelinos contemplating whether to purchase season tickets: Don't let last season fool you—the Lakers are still contenders.

Most Lakers fans understand that to be the case, whether Howard is wearing Purple and Gold or otherwise occupied.

Andrew Bynum can get the job done, and the addition of Steve Nash will pay immediate dividends.

We should remember that basketball experts aren't the only ones who buy tickets. In a city virtually defined by its celebrities, the prospect of adding one more is sure to make the Staples Center and team merchandise an even hotter commodity.

You don't need to know much about basketball to know who Dwight Howard is. You need only to follow TMZ.

Kupchak has been careful to clarify that his organization doesn't need to make changes. Desperate teams don't look nearly as exciting to fans.

Ambitious ones do.

We can't know what the Lakers brass are thinking. Just don't be surprised if Kupchak's recent meeting with new Orlando Magic general manager Rob Hennigan was less about negotiations than it was about appearances.

After all, it did get people talking. Maybe that's all it was meant to do.