Bryant, who is still recovering from a torn Achilles suffered just before the end of the regular season, tweeted on June 25 that his Achilles is feeling "very strong," but he previously acknowledged that he's aiming for a return in November or December after the 2013-14 regular season begins.
But what will the Lakers look like when the season starts? That's the multi-million dollar question revolving around Howard.
Kupchak is not concerned about Howard leaving Los Angeles, and he's kept a calm demeanor regarding Howard's future throughout. When asked by Mike Trudell of Lakers.com how he envisions Howard's role with the Lakers, Kupchak offered the following:
"Dwight is in a category of the great; he's over his back injury and there's no reason he can't play seven or eight more years at that position, and there's no doubt in my mind (that) if he does, he's in the Hall of Fame, and those players are just hard to come by."
He didn't just stop there, either.
"He's our future," Kupchak added.
Bryant is very much still the face of the Lakers and will be until his playing days are over, but Howard's importance on this team can't be undersold.
If Howard does leave Los Angeles in free agency, it's going to leave the Lakers searching for what do to next and without a legitimate superstar in the fold to usher in the post-Kobe era.
It's not often that the Lakers face such uncertain times when it comes to their roster, but Howard's looming decision will define what path the team takes next.