Howard is an unrestricted free agent, and starting on July 1, he will dive into the familiar waters of the drama, rumors and questions that come along with free agency.
According to Marc Stein of ESPN, the Atlanta Hawks, Dallas Mavericks and Houston Rockets are all planning on making serious runs at D12, and the Lakers are going to have their hands full trying to bring him back for a second run in LA. The Hawks are the only team that can sign both Howard and Chris Paul, the Mavericks run a big-man offense and James Harden is recruiting Howard to make Houston a powerhouse. There are appealing options everywhere he looks and Howard relishes all of the attention he receives when making decisions like this.
However, the Lakers have a financial advantage over the suitors who are looking to steal Howard away from Los Angeles. According to ESPN Los Angeles, “Howard can sign a five-year, $118 million max-level extension to stay in L.A. come July 1. The most he could receive if he were to leave is a four-year deal worth $87.6 million.”
Will this decision be all about money? If so, the Lakers are in luck. Unfortunately for LA, the destination that Howard chooses will likely come down to a combination of factors, with winning, off-the-court opportunities (endorsements, movies), teammates and coach likely being at the top of that list.
It’s not going to be easy by any means, but the Lakers can keep Howard. The organization needs to be willing to make some serious sacrifices for the player who has the power to make or break the team's chances in 2014.