But fresh off a first-round sweep at the hands of the San Antonio Spurs (which included Howard getting ejected in the final game), there are plenty of questions surrounding the Lakers now.
The hottest item of debate, of course, is whether Howard will be back with the team next season. The soon-to-be free agent will surely have a lot of suitors in the offseason coming off a campaign in which he averaged 17.1 points, 12.4 rebounds, 2.4 blocks and 1.1 steals while shooting 58 percent from the floor.
Howard has said his decision is based on the "right to be happy," via Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times (whatever that means).
He also said of playing in L.A., via the Los Angeles Times report:
Some days it's good, when I have a good game. Some days it's not so good. It's the best place to be when you win. When you're losing it's not so good. L.A. loves their Lakers.
Some of that you can't really understand until you experience it.
General manager Mitch Kupchak has said he's "optimistic" Howard will return to the team, but he also said it was important for Howard to make up his mind as soon as possible so the Lakers can get about business in the offseason, via the Los Angeles Times.
Kupchak also said in the report that everybody is in play to potentially be moved, including Pau Gasol. The Lakers have the choice to waive Gasol, Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace and Steve Blake in July. If they did that, they would still have to pay their salaries for the upcoming season, but they wouldn't have to pay their respective luxury taxes. That's important, given the Lakers won't have much money to work with in the offseason, especially if they re-sign Howard.
Obviously, Bryant isn't going anywhere. I would also expect Gasol to stay given Bryant's desire for him to remain with the team, via ESPNLA 710 Radio. That leaves Metta World Pace and Blake, who you would have to think are in danger of being waived given the Lakers' desire to get younger.
Kupchak said that he doesn't expect to be able to sign any high-profile free agents during the offseason given the team's salary cap situation, but signing someone for the veteran's minimum is certainly an option.
He added, "You're probably going to end up looking at a veteran player who's older and maybe has a high level of skill and a higher level of basketball IQ but he may not be as athletic as he once was."
Don't expect Steve Nash to go anywhere. The veteran point guard, who battled a fractured leg and hip and hamstring soreness during the season, "will almost surely return" to the club, per Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times.
Small forward Earl Clark, who is a free agent in July, said he wants to remain with the team (per Bresnahan), but that's likely going to depend on how much money he wants and how much the Lakers can give him. He played well in January and February this season (drawing praise from Bryant), but his playing time and level of play generally dropped when Gasol came back from injury in March.
According to Pincus, Antawn Jamison and Devin Ebanks won't likely remain with the Lakers.
But watch for second-year guard Andrew Goudelock next season, who averaged 17.1 points on 44 percent shooting in two starts against the Spurs in the playoffs after being named the NBA D-League MVP.
One thing's for sure: There's a lot of work to do in La La Land this offseason. Also, don't count them out as title contenders next season. More time to develop chemistry and some added pieces may just do the trick.
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