To say that the Dwight Howard era with the Los Angeles Lakers has gotten off to a rough start would be a gross understatement. The future for both the superstar center and the franchise looks more uncertain than ever.
However, if you ask the Lakers and general manager Mitch Kupchak, it doesn't sound like a separation is coming.
After making statements about how the Lakers had no intention of trading Howard before the trade deadline, ESPN's Chris Broussard spoke to sources with the team who reiterated that sentiment.
Broussard also reported that Howard's impending free agency is not going to play a role in what the Lakers decide to do.
Despite their concerns, the Lakers have not directly asked Howard whether he plans to stay or go in free agency, according to sources.
Sources have told ESPNLosAngeles.com's Ramona Shelburne that the Lakers are "very confident" Howard will remain with the team this summer.
If health wasn't a factor, which player should the Lakers attempt to trade first?
Because we are talking about the Lakers, and not a team like, say, Orlando, they are going to feel confident that they can sign and/or re-sign any player that they want to.
But if Broussard's sources are accurate and no one in the organization has directly asked Howard what he plans to do after the season, the Lakers could be setting themselves up to look like chumps.
This isn't the NBA of old, where the Lakers could just throw money at a problem they wanted to make go away. Howard has never seemed happy with this team, despite what he might say publicly.
It is no secret that things have not gone smoothly between Howard and Kobe Bryant. According to Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times, a January 23 team meeting resulted in a lot of yelling and some confrontations between players.
They held a clear-the-air team meeting before Wednesday morning's shoot-around, with Kobe Bryant very directly asking Dwight Howard if he disliked playing with the long-time Lakers star.
All of this is to say that when you are a team like the Lakers that has spent over $100 million on this year's roster and has $78 million in salary commitments next season (via HoopsHype) and have a 23-26 record, what sense does it make to cut yourself off of a potential move that can make you better for the future?
I know the Lakers are a franchise that reloads, not rebuilds, but this roster is old, slow and lacks any depth.
Bryant isn't going to be around forever. Pau Gasol suffered a foot injury on Tuesday, with Brian Windhorst of ESPN reporting that the star forward said he felt something pop.
Gasol said he felt "a pop" in bottom of foot and he's worried about it.— Brian Windhorst (@WindhorstESPN) February 6, 2013
Howard's value might not be what it once was, both because of his shoulder issues and the fact he is in the final year of his deal, but teams will always have a strong interest in a big man with the history of success that he has had.
Now is a time where the Lakers need to explore any and all options they can to build for next year and beyond, because it doesn't look like it is going to happen this year. Acceptance is the hardest thing for anyone to do.
Looking at the Lakers, they are a mess. Howard is a valuable asset who can fetch a hefty return if the team seriously entertains offers for him. Their unwillingness to do so is a big mistake that could burn them in a big way this summer.