If Dwight Howard wants the most money possible and the longest contract available, he will re-sign with the Los Angeles Lakers this summer. No other team in the NBA can offer the 27-year-old a five-year deal worth nearly $118 million. If the Dallas Mavericks, Houston Rockets or Atlanta Hawks want to step up to the plate, the best deal they can present is $88 million over four years.
When you are coming off your most injury-plagued and inefficient campaign in recent memory, that extra year matters.
While the Lakers often catch a lot of flak over their propensity for colossal mega trades, there is a method to the franchise’s madness. By trading for Howard L.A. now puts itself in a situation where it can offer its superstar center a much better deal than anyone else can.
The question is: how much does Howard value his sanity?
Again, no one in the NBA can present him the sort of lucrative offer that the Lakers can; but nowhere is the pressure to win more intense than in Los Angeles either. The playful, childish antics that Orlando learned to live with during Howard’s days with the Magic – L.A. doesn’t play that. When you win, you can do whatever you want. But when you lose, as Howard is learning this year, Tinseltown is merciless.
Howard won’t get more money or years anywhere else, but would he be willing to sacrifice both for the sake of playing in a more comfortable environment, with a coach he actually respects, and teammates that don’t question his toughness?
For all the questions about Howard’s seriousness as a ballplayer and person, it doesn’t appear as though he wants to take the easy way out. In a recent report, Chris Broussard of ESPN indicated that the 27-year-old star has ‘little’ interest in playing for Atlanta. He doesn’t want to go there via free agency. He doesn’t want to be traded there. And seeing as there is legitimately nowhere in America where Howard will get a warmer and more peaceful reception, it’s safe to say that he is willing to live with the pressure of being a superstar in L.A.
The Lakers are done this year. There is no getting around that. So long as they can retain Howard, though, all is not lost. He will get healthy. The team will recover during the offseason. And then next year, hopefully, this collection of future Hall of Famers will put it all together like they theoretically should have this year.