Dwight Howard will have to answer a lot of questions regarding his pending free agency.
The ongoing saga has spanned two cities, over two seasons, under four head coaches. During that time, the best big man in the game alienated fans with his insincerity and immaturity.
Howard asked the Orlando Magic to trade him prior to the 2012 trade deadline, then picked up the option on the final year of his contract, before asking to be traded again.
However, Howard's most disingenuous comments came towards the end of his tenure with Orlando. The center embraced his head coach, Stan Van Gundy, and denied asking management to fire Van Gundy moments after the coach informed the media that he heard from a reliable source that Howard did just that.
The circus followed Howard to Los Angeles, where the Lakers endured a whirlwind of a season. L.A. fired Mike Brown after five games, sustained injuries to key players and survived an alleged feud between Howard and Kobe Bryant before being swept in the first round of the playoffs.
Howard's long-awaited free agency has finally arrived and will be the subject of much speculation this summer. Howard has learned from his public relations mistakes and done a better job of speaking in clichés.
Yet, the 27-year-old is still self-absorbed and immature—as demonstrated by the tweet below—and those qualities creep their way into his public statements. Expect boilerplate answers tinged with self-pity from Howard over the next few months.
say “eye yam stew peed” 4 times fast y’all gotta try this lol somebody jus got me— Dwight Howard (@DwightHoward) May 10, 2013
"My heart is in Los Angeles"
There are not many viable landing spots for Superman. The new CBA makes it difficult for the Lakers to move him in a sign-and-trade, leaving the Houston Rockets, Atlanta Hawks and Dallas Mavericks as the only teams with a realistic chance of prying him away from the L.A. Howard will likely remain with the Lakers, who can offer him more money than any other team.
Of course, Howard will attempt to make it appear as if his decision was grounded in emotion, rather than financially motivated. He will talk about how much he likes playing with his teammates and living in Los Angeles.
"I want to be a part of this great franchise"
Howard will undoubtedly reference the great history of the Laker organization as one of the many reasons he chose to remain in L.A. He may even pull on the heart strings of the Laker faithful by referencing the recently deceased Jerry Buss.
"I want to finish my career here"
Whether Howard remains with the Lakers or signs elsewhere, he will begin trying to rehabilitate his damaged image at his introductory press conference. The seven-time All-Star will make a firm commitment to the franchise and city in an attempt to squash the perception that he is disloyal.
"I am looking forward to starting over"
After the Lakers were eliminated from the playoffs, Howard referred to the entire season as a nightmare. Whether it is in L.A., or another city, he will attempt to put the past two seasons behind him and "start over," something he talked about doing when he first joined the Lakers.
"Kobe and I have a great relationship"
Kobe and Dwight's relationship was a major topic of discussion throughout their season together. Reports surfaced in January that the two almost came to blows. Bryant mocked the alleged altercation on twitter by posting a picture of he and Howard pretending to fight.
However, the apparent rift between came to a head again weeks later when Bryant criticized Howard for not playing with a torn labrum.
Howard will be quick to state that he enjoyed playing with Kobe and how much he learned from the 17-year veteran. The center may even reference the number of times he visited Kobe after the latter tore his Achilles, something Bryant tweeted about.
D12 was a beast. He stopped by the hospital twice yesterday to check on big brothat's luv #countond12— Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) April 15, 2013
"I am ready to be a leader"
Howard will segue from any discussion about Kobe into how he is ready to be a leader. As seen in the video below, Howard talked about learning to be a leader from Kobe when he joined the Lakers. Expect him to say that he is ready to carry the torch while Kobe recovers from his injury.
"I support Mike D'Antoni" or "I did not get Mike D'Antoni fired"
Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak gave Mike D'Antoni a vote of confidence following the end of the Lakers season, though the coach may be on the hot seat following the disappointing campaign. As long as D'Antoni is the coach, Howard will publicly support him, as he did when the Lakers hired D'Antoni last year.
If the Lakers re-sign Howard and fire D'Antoni, there will be speculation that Howard asked for the coach to be fired, as he once did with Van Gundy. If that is the case, Howard will be compelled to make a forceful statement indicating that he had nothing to do with the firing.
"People are always misrepresenting the things I say"
Howard's antics have resulted in less-than-favorable media coverage over the past two years, which could be exacerbated by another immature comment during the free-agency process. The big man is sensitive to the way he is portrayed and is inclined to be defensive in the face of negative press.
"I am finally healthy"
Howard has likely been coached not to make excuses for his poor performances. He will not directly reference his recovery from back surgery and the torn labrum—both legitimate excuses—as reasons for his subpar 2012-13 season, though you can expect him work injuries into the conversation in a roundabout way.