11:19 PM EST, January 5, 2013
Say it ain't so.
Magic alumnus Dwight Howard needs to shut down the rumors, innuendos and scatter-shot reporting.
He should tell the basketball world this: I'm definitely staying in L.A., re-signing with the Lakers.
Then everyone can stop asking, stop speculating.
Howard can do that unless he's just playing coy or he ...
Or he's not sure if he wants to be with the Lakers for the next five seasons.
Writes ESPN.com's Marc Stein: "Yet there's no shortage of executives in other cities who believe the Mavs are at the front of the line for Dwight Howard — one of their two original main targets, along with Chris Paul, when they dissolved the championship team before both players unexpectedly removed themselves from the 2012 free-agent class — if Howard decides that Laker land isn't for him."
Stein quoted one Western Conference GM as saying, "I have it as Lakers, Dallas or Atlanta for Dwight."
You have an NBA GM speculating about another list of teams for Howard and ranking them in order of preference?
From coast to coast, Orlando to L.A., it all sounds too familiar.
Even with the Lakers getting off to a rocky start, even with tension between Dwight and Kobe, even with Dwight not seeing the ball enough ... I believed there was no way Howard could think about leaving L.A.
He couldn't possibly afford to ruin what's left of his image by bolting the Lakers as a free agent this summer, creating another dramatic spectacle. He would be ridiculed to no end.
Stars can run out of Orlando. That has become a trend and is perfectly acceptable in the national view.
But the Lakers?
The Lakers don't lose superstars. They steal 'em. Shaq turned his back on the Purple and Gold, not the other way around.
Again, my inclination is to say, "Sit tight, Dwight."
Besides, no other team can give Howard roughly $117 million over five years to stay. He'd take a $30 million haircut if he agrees to a four-year deal elsewhere. I still believe that's the biggest reason he'll ultimately remain in L.A. after much suspense, public hand-wringing and outpouring of Lakers love.
But things have not gone well for the Lakers, who don't look like championship material and getting older and slower by the day.
More importantly, things have not gone well for Dwight, who has felt Kobe Bryant's wrath and hasn't seen the offense come to him nearly enough. His numbers — particularly his shot attempts — are down as he continues to recover from back surgery.
He needs another operation, and he needs the ball to be surgically removed from Kobe's fingers. And that's not going to happen.
Kobe will be around for at least another two years, too.
Dwight can't be surprised he's become Kobe's designated rebounder. We tried to warn him.
Could the Mavs be an option? Sure. Howard mentioned how owner Mark Cuban takes care of his players when Howard was trying to exit the Magic.
Atlanta? I'm not buying Atlanta. Dwight didn't want anything to do with his hometown when he was looking for a door out of Orlando.
The Hawks were not on his list of preferred big-market destinations. To recap: Howard's original list was topped by the Brooklyn Nets and then Dallas and L.A , or L.A. and Dallas.
Could he have made another list now that he's in L.A.?
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