During an interview with ESPN's Colin Cowherd, Los Angeles Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak made the team's intentions very clear (via ESPN Los Angeles). Kupchak referred to Dwight Howard with two words—"our future."
Contrary to the speculation that has mounted since, D-12 being named the team's future will not number Kobe Bryant's years in Los Angeles.
Since Kupchak made those remarks, many have speculated as to where this leaves Bryant. After all, the 16-year veteran has clashed with Howard on numerous occasions, including this past weekend's All-Star break (via The New York Post).
According to Chad Ford of ESPN, there are rumblings that the Lakers would choose D-12 over Kobe if it came to that.
I've heard rumblings that if Howard told Laker officials this summer that the only way he'd stay in LA is if Kobe leaves, the Lakers could end up choosing Howard over Kobe. It's an unlikely scenario, but one worth watching.
Unlikely and, quite frankly, irrelevant.
Come 2014, Kobe, Pau Gasol, Steve Nash and Metta World Peace will be free agents. It is then that Howard will be looking to Lakers management to surround him with the caliber talent to win multiple championships.
Just don't think that the potential re-signing of Bryant would alienate Howard in any form or manner.
The notion that D-12 and Kobe can't co-exist is blasphemous and borders on the edge of premature. During a season in which the Lakers are 26-29, it's hard to imagine two superstars not filled with tension.
These first-time teammates are simply developing a slow understanding as to what one another is all about.
Furthermore, the Lakers may be undergoing a change in ownership, but that doesn't mean they will suddenly lose sight of what's important. For instance, Bryant is the most popular athlete in Los Angeles.
Correction, Bryant is one of the most popular athletes in the world.
For that reason, it's quite unlikely that the organization would alienate its fans by letting a player of Kobe's stature walk. More importantly, it's unlikely that it would fail to capitalize on the cash cow known as Kobe Bean Bryant.
Don't forget, Bryant is as aware of his age as any player in the NBA.
For those who chose not to watch the video, here is what Kobe had to say:
Probably two years max. Two years max. You know, next year might be it. It's one of those things where I think I'll wake up and I'll know. And if it's it for me, then that's it and there's no looking back.
Two more years and Bryant could be done.
With this in mind, it's quite unlikely that the Lakers would deny Bryant the opportunity to finish his career in Los Angeles. After all, it was Bryant who won them five NBA championships.
It's also Bryant who would be as marketable as ever with such limited time remaining in his prolific career.
For that reason, one can't help but find humor in the rumors that Howard could run Bryant out of Los Angeles. After all, it's Bryant who has five rings to Howard's zero—it's Bryant who could bring D-12 his first.
Until Bryant hangs up the sneakers and walks away from the Lakers himself, Los Angeles is his town to rule—no matter what D-12 could request.