And that is precisely why Mitch Kupchak should be looking to shop the All-Star center, because if he doesn't, the consequences could be devastating.
Last summer, Kupchak looked like he'd assembled one of the most powerful rosters in NBA history when he managed to get four future Hall of Famers in Howard, Bryant, Steve Nash and Pau Gasol on the floor at the same time, but things haven't exactly gone according to plan.
Nash, Gasol and Howard have struggled through injuries, the team's on its second coach of the season, and Howard has been non-committal on his plans beyond 2012-13.
Sure, it looks like this team might be able to pull things together in time to squeak into the postseason, but at least as things stand today, making it out of the first round seems completely out of the question.
Which is why Kupchak needs to cut his losses and deal Howard before he loses the best big man in the game for nothing when free agency opens this summer.
For whatever reason, though, the Lakers seem intent on hanging onto Howard (via Yahoo! Sports), at least publicly:
Howard will become a free agent at the end of the season. Earlier Friday he told reporters, "(The Lakers) told me they weren't going to trade me. I'd be surprised. They told me they wouldn't trade me. That's what (Kupchak) said."
Kupchak said much the same thing in a recent interview with Newsday.
Howard refused to say anything definitive about whether he plans to stay with the Lakers after this season.
"The only thing that matters is the present," Howard said. "And right now there's no need for me to talk about what happens at the end of the season. There's no need to go back and forth about it, I just feel like at the end of the year, I should have my opportunity to make my decision."
Holding onto the team's most valuable trade asset would be a mistake, especially because the Lakers gave up an All-Star big in Andrew Bynum in order to get Howard.
If Howard is unwilling to commit to L.A. beyond the rest of the season, what sense is there in keeping him on the roster, especially if this squad is light-years away from being able to knock off the Miami Heat or even the Oklahoma City Thunder in the short term?
Whether Howard intends on staying with the Lakers is up in the air, but it's not difficult to see that he doesn't enjoy sharing the court with his former Olympic teammate in Bryant, and that is reason enough to jettison the 27-year-old superstar, because the Lakers have been and will continue to be Kobe's team as long as the five-time NBA champion is in the game.
It won't be pleasant for Kupchak to cut his losses with the Dwight Howard Experiment in Los Angeles, but it'd be a lot better than having to sit and watch as one of the most valuable trade assets in the league leaves town on his own accord this summer.
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