5 Early Signs That Dwight Howard Will Stay with the LA Lakers Long-Term

Jesse DorseyFeatured ColumnistSeptember 11, 2012

5 Early Signs That Dwight Howard Will Stay with the LA Lakers Long-Term

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    The Los Angeles Lakers took a bit of a risk when they traded for Dwight Howard in that he is still a free agent as soon as the season ends and no real word has come out from the Howard camp that he'll be in town past this season. Sure, it's not as big a risk as a team like Philly picking up Andrew Bynum, whose contract is also expiring, but it's a risk they took nonetheless.

    Here and there a hint has been dropped, whether it be in the form of a tweet where he mentions being there for, "many years to come," but there has yet to be any kind of concrete talk about re-signing with the team past this season.

    Beyond that, rumors have swirled that he's dropping millions on a house near L.A, but Howard himself has yet to put any truth to that rumor. Until I see him standing out in front of it with the deed in one hand and today's newspaper in the other, it's still just talk.

    It can be argued that it makes no sense for him to travel elsewhere to play basketball past next season, but not a lot about Howard has made sense over the past 10 months or so, and trying to get into his mind is not something easily done.

    Still, there's a lot to be said about a few key moments ever since Howard was traded to the Lakers near the beginning of August, and they all point to Howard wearing purple and gold next season and beyond. There's nothing out there that says Howard will definitely stay in town, but there's nothing out there to the contrary either.

5. The NBA's CBA

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    As ridiculous as it sounds, the CBA that the players and owners just signed less than a year ago was put in place to keep guys like Howard from leaving their current teams. It didn't work out for the Magic that way, but it's a huge advantage for Los Angeles over the rest of the league.

    Should Howard go out and look for a deal with another team without the Lakers becoming involved in some kind of sign-and-trade, Howard is going to be able to sign a maximum deal, but it would be with a team that doesn't hold his Bird Rights.

    Basically, that means Howard is going to be able to sign for a maximum of four years at a base salary of just under $23.5 million the first year with 4.5 percent raises each year. The Lakers, meanwhile, can offer him a five-year deal starting at that same base salary with 7.5 percent raises from year-to-year.

    Leaving the Lakers straight up would mean leaving a year of guaranteed paychecks on the table, plus taking smaller yearly raises. In all it comes out to nearly $30 million that Howard would leave on the table if he left the Lakers.

    It's not anything that locks him in with L.A., but it's hard to think of anyone leaving that kind of money on the table, especially considering the cushy situation that Howard's in at this point.

4. Dwight Howard and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

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    Already, Howard is getting off on the right foot with the past that constantly lingers heavily over the Lakers, especially that center spot that he's going to occupy as soon as his back lets him back on the court.

    Howard recently met with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, presumably talking about the perks of being enormous and the best place to put another statue out in front of Staple's Center, but more came out of the circumstances surrounding the meeting than anything else.

    Abdul-Jabbar has had a strained relationship with the team for a few years after they let his contract run out as a specialist with the team and after Andrew Bynum told the team that he didn't want to work with Kareem anymore, so Howard talking about looking forward to actually working with the man is extremely intriguing.

    Of course, there's also the picture that he tweeted when he met with Kareem, hinting a bit toward the future plans of the big man:

    Me and @kaj33 together. For many years to come. twitter.com/DwightHoward/s…

    — Dwight Howard (@DwightHoward) September 3, 2012

3. Kobe's...Excited

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    It's been a bit of a rollercoaster ride for Kobe Bryant over the past year with the Lakers. When Chris Paul got traded to the Lakers, it meant a star player to share the load with (although it could have meant a star player to feud with as well), something Kobe could use as he slowly winds down.

    However, when that got pulled out from under the Lakers and the team was left in a strange place, Los Angeles scrambled to wring out the stains from the trade.

    The season went off with a few hitches here and there, and then the playoffs came, and along with that came Kobe's public criticism of his teammates. The Lakers got bounced in the second round by the Thunder, and big changes were expected to come in the offseason.

    Fast-forward to the Olympics, where Kobe is allowed to back off the gas pedal when he wants to, but still tries to take over the game at times as well. We saw him look like he truly enjoyed himself playing ball for the first time since the 2011 season at the most recent.

    Howard was traded to the Lakers during the playoffs, and when asked about his feelings on the matter, Kobe was more than happy to see him come to L.A.

2. And Kobe's Not Threatened

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    At this point in his career, with five rings, an MVP Award, a few Finals MVP Awards and countless other trophies sitting atop his fireplace, it's starting to seem like Kobe Bryant is starting to accept the fact that he can share the spotlight. At least, that's what he's saying, his actions will speak louder than any words he can give out.

    Still, after the Howard trade went through in August, Bryant went as far as to say that he's ready to give the team up to Howard.

    Well, I guess he's not saying he'll give it up to him now, "Look, I'm going to play two, maybe three more years…then the team is his." So Kobe's got the team until he's ready to give it up, but it's still better than him saying something that makes Howard seem unwelcome.

    We've all seen what happens when Kobe doesn't get along with teammates. Feuds start, feelings get hurt, players get traded and end up asking about the taste of their posterior. We don't want to see that again.

1. Updated Title Odds

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    If there's one thing that keeps a player happier than anything else, it's a big shiny trophy at the end of the season and a ring at the start of the following season to add to the jewelry collection. Money is good, liking a city and a team is okay, but gold and glory trumps all in professional sports.

    Most star players are looking at the best way to leave a legacy, the best way to make their "brand" more valuable and the best way to be remembered after they leave. Win a title or three and you're set for life. That's why the Lakers putting this team together seems to be the best indication that Howard is going to stay beyond this season.

    Obviously nothing is set in stone, but a lot of signs point to Los Angeles having a great shot at winning a title this year, regardless of the fact that they haven't played a game yet and nobody is certain when Howard is returning from his back surgery.

    After the Howard trade went down, Los Angeles jumped from 5:1 odds to 3:1 odds, giving them the second-best chance of winning a title after last year's defending champion Miami Heat.

    Even more intriguing, since the August trade, Los Angeles has been bumped up in most books, going off at 5:2 odds, putting them closer to Miami, or even at 11:5 odds, ahead of the Heat.

    That doesn't mean anything more than just a few numbers up on a board, but it's not a bad omen either.

     

    If you are one of those twitterers, you can follow me @JDorsey33.