That’s what the Los Angeles Lakers will be if Howard signs elsewhere as an unrestricted free agent.
ESPN’s Jeff Goodman reported that the 27-year-old center has taken a step toward doing so, setting up a meeting with the Houston Rockets. According to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin, Mitch Kupchak is still optimistic about Howard re-signing despite the fact that ESPN’s Chris Broussard reported that there’s “very little chance” he does.
One of the reasons why Howard is so likely to leave is because he doesn’t want to play second fiddle to Bryant. He also doesn’t like Mike D’Antoni’s system, but if Howard would be won over by Bryant handing him the reins to the franchise, the decision is a no-brainer. Bryant must relinquish his role as the go-to guy.
If he refuses to do so and D’Antoni isn’t fired, all reports point to Howard’s exit.
According to the OC Register’s Kevin Ding, Los Angeles plans to take the cheap route if the seven-time All-Star decides to sign elsewhere.
Kupchak won’t attempt a sign-and-trade, leaving the Lakers empty-handed if Howard walks. The GM also won’t try to improve by trading Pau Gasol. Kupchak is content to allow Gasol to play out the final year of his contract and create salary cap space for the 2014 free-agent class.
The 2012-13 Lakers barely made the playoffs. If they lose their second-best player, odds are that they’ll be a lottery team.
Bryant is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent next summer. If he wants to spend what is potentially his final season in purple and gold on an irrelevant team, more power to him. If he wants two more rings like CBS Sports’ Zach Harper reported, Bryant will give Howard a call.
His recruiting pitch: It’s your team.
David Daniels is a breaking news writer at Bleacher Report and news editor at Wade-O Radio.