Biggest Signs That Dwight Howard Will Remain with LA Lakers Long Term
But while nobody knows where Howard will be for the 2013-14 season, fans in L.A. have reason to be optimistic.
If Howard sticks around Los Angeles for the long haul, he’ll have a chance to become the face of a franchise that is one of the most recognizable in all of sports. His legacy has yet to be determined, but success with the Lakers would mean everything for the player who is arguably the best center in the game.
There are teams out there who will want to add Howard to their rosters moving forward, but half way through the big man’s first year in L.A., the Lakers have to be considered the favorites.
Dwight Howard has been about as non-committal as it comes when referring to his long-term desires—a trend that goes back to his days with the Orlando Magic. But the big man has said a few things since arriving in Los Angeles that has given the impression that he’s not going anywhere.
Back in December, Howard was quoted by USA TODAY Sports’ Sam Amick as saying, “[But] there's going to come a day where [Bryant’s] going to be gone, and that's when I have to step in and fill that void and take this team to the next level…I'm going to do my job and my part to make sure this team gets there – and it starts with me.”
Most recently, Howard was interviewed by ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith. When Smith asked Howard about his desires to remain in Los Angeles, Howard stated that he was simply focused on “getting [the Lakers] into the playoffs and to win a championship.”
As ambiguous as that kind of response may be, he went on to say, “I’m committed to this team,” and that he didn’t want the same thing to happen in L.A. that happened toward the end of his tenure in Orlando.
By all accounts, Dwight Howard will finish the 2012-13 season as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers. This means that if he wants to play elsewhere, he’ll have to sign as a free agent in the summer of 2013.
As a free agent, Howard is going to make more money by re-signing with the Lakers than he will by signing with any other team. Los Angeles can sign him to a five-year maximum contract, which he can't do anywhere else.
While money likely isn’t Howard’s only motivation, it’s tough for anybody to turn down an extra year of job security. Howard even has extra incentive to accept the extra year, seeing as his durability is in question for the first time in his career.
This team has the potential to be great, and their big man will have to at least consider the offer that is sent his way. If money truly talks, Howard will listen because he’d be throwing away roughly $30 million by leaving L.A.
Limited Free-Agent Destinations
If every team in the NBA had enough money to throw Dwight Howard’s way, the 27-year-old would have 30 contracts waiting for him when free agency finally rolled around.
That’s not how it works, though, and as we’ve learned about Howard, he’s quite indecisive when it comes to choosing his final destination.
Broussard explains that the Dallas Mavericks and Atlanta Hawks have lost some of their appeal to the big man, and that Houston has “become a more attractive destination since acquiring [James] Harden.”
The problem with the Howard-to-Houston scenario, according to Broussard, is that the extra $30 million dollars on the table “means a lot to Howard,” and is “definitely a major advantage for the Lakers.”
The Team Is Still Talented
The Los Angeles Lakers may be on the outside looking in when it comes to the playoff race, but that doesn’t change that they have one of the most talented starting lineups in the entire NBA.
Coming into the year most people expected greatness. One of those people was Dwight Howard, and according to his interview with ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith, those expectations haven’t changed.
“It’s made it a little tougher,” Howard said when asked about his expectations following the struggles. “But it hasn’t changed.”
Howard still believes this team can compete for a championship, and while that may just be diplomacy at it’s finest, you have to recognize that the pieces on this team haven’t changed (with the exception of the recent injury to Pau Gasol).
This team has yet to play together as a healthy unit for any long stretch of time, and while their chemistry still isn’t what fans hoped it would be, it’s not unreasonable to think that a talented group like this could make some noise if they can put it together.
LA Lakers Won't Make Trade
The Los Angeles Lakers made two blockbuster trades in the 2012 offseason to bring in Steve Nash and Dwight Howard. Those moves were the ones that were supposed to take them back to the promise land, and they're not willing to give up on them just yet.
According to ESPN’s Chris Broussard, Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak has informed Howard that the team will not trade him.
In the same report, Broussard says that the team is "very confident" that Howard will re-sign long-term.
The move to keep Howard will allow the center more time to jell with the current squad. If the team can finish the year on a high note—even if that’s not an NBA championship—it will help convince Howard that L.A. is the place to be, and that you really can't beat a talented roster and a maximum contract.