The Los Angeles Lakers and Dwight Howard haven’t enjoyed the success many envisioned when the superstar center was traded to the prestigious franchise this past summer, but general manager Mitch Kupchak is determined to make the relationship work.
Kupchak appeared on ESPN Radio's The Herd with Colin Cowherd earlier today and made it clear that Howard will not be going anywhere at the upcoming Feb. 21 trading deadline (via Dave McMenamin of ESPN Los Angeles):
We've been very consistent. We're not trading Dwight Howard...He will not be traded and there's nothing that anybody can do today to call me today and ask me, “Would you do this?'” and get a positive result.
After the season-long saga that the Orlando Magic and Howard went through—which culminated in the blockbuster deal that landed the big man in Los Angeles—it’s refreshing to see Kupchak stick with his prized offseason acquisition.
Not only that, but the GM is confident that Howard will round into form and remain with the organization for years to come, which many have speculated won’t be the case when he has the chance to walk away as an unrestricted free agent this summer (via McMenamin):
It's hard to get talent in this league and to have a talent like Dwight Howard, we have no intention of trading Dwight Howard. He belongs to have his name on the wall [as a retired uniform] and a statue in front of Staples [Center] at some point and time.
Howard has struggled to mesh with his star teammates in Mike D’Antoni’s system and is averaging 16.3 points, 11.8 rebounds and 2.3 blocks over 48 games—disappointing numbers by his standards.
However, Kupchak sees this dip in production as a result of offseason back surgery, which he feels takes at least a year to fully return from. The GM is positive that the 27-year-old center will have a “100 percent recovery,” (via McMenamin).
McMenamin also noted that the Lakers are fully prepared to offer Howard a five-year max contract extension, which would provides the big man with extra incentive to remain in Southern California.
What will happen to Howard?
With the Lakers sitting at 25-29 following the All-Star break, Howard and his teammates will need to play with urgency over the next 28 games to ensure a playoff berth in the stacked Western Conference.
Regardless of their postseason chances, though, the public has been made aware that Howard will remain a Laker, at least until July. With full support from the organization, there is also a stronger possibility that the big man elects to sign a long-term extension.