Did Dwight Howard Just Hint He Wants to Stay with Lakers Long-Term?

Zach BuckleyNational NBA Featured ColumnistDecember 12, 2012

NEW ORLEANS, LA - DECEMBER 05:  Dwight Howard #12 of the Los Angeles Lakers warms up prior to a game against the New Orleans Hornets at New Orleans Arena on December 5, 2012 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  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 Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
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The Los Angeles Lakers figured to have a tough sell to impending free-agent Dwight Howard.

The Lakers, just 9-13 on the season, sit 12th in the Western Conference. Their playoff ticket is teetering on becoming voided. The championship hopes that accompanied Howard's arrival have looked like nothing more than a pipe dream.

But Superman told T.J. Simers of the Los Angeles Times that he already knows where he wants to sign after the 2012-13 season, telling Simers "I know" when asked if he already had a sense of where he'll sign this summer.

Then he started dropping hints:

[Howard] says the Lakers are all about championships, and "what's not to like about L.A.?"

There is an expectation by some that he cannot coexist with Kobe.

"Why can't we coexist?" he asks. "Because we're opposites? I thought opposites attract.

"You know why we can play well together? Kobe knows how hard I work and that I'm all about championships. We're also entertainers, and for the two hours and 20 minutes that people come to a game they want to be entertained."

Given the timing of this announcement, it would almost certainly be with the Lakers.

Whereas Kobe Bryant and coach Mike D'Antoni have voiced their frustrations with the team's play, Howard has preached patience. He understands the magnitude of the transformation this team has undertaken with a barrage of offseason moves, an early-season coaching change and a rash of injuries.

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He also understands the ridiculous upside of this Lakers team. After eight seasons of trying to lift the play of his teammates in Orlando, Howard now shares the floor with All-Star names like Bryant, (Steve) Nash and (Pau) Gasol.

At least, he will whenever Gasol (knee tendinitis) and Nash (leg) are healthy enough to return to the hardwood.

The Lakers are still as good as experts thought they were...on paper.

Despite those early struggles, they remain such an intriguing collection because the world has yet to see what a fully loaded Lakers team can accomplish. They've played all of one full game with a complete complement of players. And that came two coaches ago (Mike Brown and interim coach Bernie Bickerstaff).

Howard will have his pick of suitors after the 2012-13 season is over. He's still feeling the effects after undergoing back surgery last spring and is still averaging 18.4 points and 12.1 rebounds.

A championship would be the Lakers' biggest trump card. But with Kobe Bryant (29.2 points, five rebounds and 4.8 assists) showing there's more life in his legs than his lengthy resume would suggest, their championship window isn't closing as quickly as we anticipated.

The realistic championship hopes that this collection of talent brings, could make Howard's decision free of drama and suspense. If his comments hold true, then perhaps it already has.