Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times asked Howard about his plans with the club down the road, and, of course, received a cryptic response from the superstar center:
Howard wouldn't talk about future w/ Lakers: "We're not discussing that. Right now, our goal is to win. All I want to do is win."— Mike Bresnahan (@Mike_Bresnahan) January 23, 2013
Howard is currently playing out the last season of his five-year deal and is set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer.
He was widely expected to favor re-signing with the Lakers, but nothing has gone as planned since his arrival.
Los Angeles is just 17-24 at the halfway mark of the 2012-13 campaign and facing the serious threat of not making the playoffs, even though it was a trendy pick to win the West after a blockbuster offseason.
It’s good that Howard cares about winning now, as that is the only way this franchise is going to reach the postseason and avoid an avalanche of media criticism over the summer.
What will happen to Howard?
Howard has never been one to respond well to that, infamously putting the Orlando Magic through a season-long “Dwightmare” in 2011-12 until mercifully being traded to the Lakers last August.
While the big man was supposed to man the pivot for an NBA Finals contender, he’s now looking like potential trade bait for the Feb. 21 deadline (as the Nets are reportedly interested) or one of the most coveted free agents in years.
These last 41 games are likely what will determine Howard’s future with the franchise, as missing the playoffs could easily sway his decision toward signing somewhere else this offseason.
The Lakers need to buckle down, get focused and, as Howard has mentioned, simply win basketball games before looking too far ahead. This team still has a fighting chance, but everyone—most importantly D12—needs to concentrate on the present.