As the Los Angeles Lakers come to grips with the reality that Dwight Howard may not be a part of their future, general manager Mitch Kupchak and the team's front office have begun to consider a broader range of options.
Since Howard officially became a free agent on July 1, the Lakers have held firm in their refusal to discuss sign-and-trade deals.
According to Ramona Shelburne of ESPN, that stance has changed:
Yet, there were indications late Thursday that Lakers officials, already bracing for the worst, had begun to rethink their long-held position of ruling out sign-and-trade options in the event Howard decides to bolt to one of L.A.'s rivals.
One source briefed on the Lakers' thinking told ESPN.com that, if the extra fifth year and nearly $30 million they can offer Howard isn't enough to hold off the competition, they would be forced to 'look at everything.'
The Golden State Warriors have emerged as serious contenders for Howard's services following reports of the team pursuing trades to create enough salary space to sign the center outright.
The Lakers' willingness to consider every possible way to get value for Howard makes sense. There's no point in them stubbornly sticking to their guns and allowing Howard to walk away for nothing. The potential cap relief of a Howard exodus is something L.A. wants, but why not also entertain the opportunity to get back some on-court assets?
With Steve Nash as the only player signed beyond the end of the 2013-14 season, the Lakers can take on a few short-term dollars if it means getting a young talent in the process.
Part of the explanation for the Lakers' new position on sign-and-trade deals involving Howard has to do with the Warriors' surprisingly bold pursuit of D12. Per ESPN's Marc Stein, the Dubs have reportedly found takers for three of their most onerous contracts.
If the Warriors can move that expensive trio in separate deals, they'll have the money to ink Howard without the need for a sign-and-trade. Knowing that possibility exists has the Lakers suddenly more willing to entertain discussions that they wouldn't have considered a few days ago.
The bigger issues here are the systemic flaws that have Howard so reluctant to return to the Lakers: an aging roster, a coach he doesn't like and a fading star in Kobe Bryant who reportedly said all of the wrong things to Howard in the team's pitch meeting.
The fact of the matter is that the Lakers can offer Howard more money than any other team.
But beyond that, L.A. simply doesn't have much going for it. And that's why the Lakers are now willing to talk sign-and-trade.