Lakers Trade Rumors: Team Is Smart to Keep Dwight Howard Through Struggles

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistFebruary 19, 2013

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 27:  Dwight Howard #12 of the Los Angeles Lakers reacts after a foul in front of Thabo Sefolosha #2 of the Oklahoma City Thunder at Staples Center on January 27, 2013 in Los Angeles, California.  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 Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

There are many people waiting for the Los Angeles Lakers to make a move to deal Dwight Howard. It seems like that will not happen, though.

The stories surrounding the center appear to be more closely related to a soap opera than an NBA player.

All of the drama during the summer should have ended when he was traded to the Lakers. Instead, it only increased when the team got out to a slow start and he began to "feud" with Kobe Bryant.

People continue to find new sources that mention potential trades involving the three-time defensive player of the year. Most recently, it was Kevin Berger of CBS: has learned that the Lakers have engaged in preliminary trade discussions with an unlikely trade partner regarding Howard: their fierce rival, the Boston Celtics. The centerpieces of the possible deal, which hasn't gained any traction, would be Howard and Rajon Rondo.

Of course, general manager Mitch Kupchak denied such a trade shorty after (via ESPN).

It also turns out that what the GM is saying publicly is the same thing he is saying in private discussions, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports:

For Howard, the trade deadline comes on Thursday and rivals are still poking at the Lakers, understanding fully that Howard is miserable. When teams call to talk trade, they say, the Lakers' private message has been consistent with the public one: Howard isn't available, general manager Mitch Kupchak tells them.

This should clear up any confusion regarding future rumors. In reality, this is the smartest move the team could make. 

Howard is a rare talent in the middle of the court. He has been named first-team All NBA in each of the last five seasons. Considering he is leading the league with 11.8 rebounds per game and is fifth with 2.33 blocks per game, it would not be surprising to be named to a sixth-straight team.

He is undoubtedly the best center in the NBA and can change the game on both ends of the court.

With an aging supporting roster, the Lakers must do everything they can to re-sign the big man and keep him long-term as the next face of the franchise.

If the squad deals him mid-season, that dream is done.

In addition, it is still too early to give up on this season. While no one can deny that the Lakers' season has not gone according to plan, the team exits the All-Star break only 3.5 games out of a playoff spot.

After winning eight of the last 12, it appears that better days are on the horizon. If they can do enough to reach the playoffs, there is enough talent on the roster to surprise the rest of the league.

It is near impossible to get equal value for a player of Howard's caliber, which means that the team will almost definitely be worse off after a trade.

By keeping the center, the worst thing that could happen is that he leaves after the year ends. This would still clear up some cap space for the front office to sign a different free agent that could help the club.

Kupchak has been clear with his message that he is not trading Howard. There is little doubt that this is the smartest non-move that he could make at this time.