NBA Rumors: Lakers Make Final Decision on Dwight Howard Trade

| by Alex Groberman

The Los Angeles Lakers are 26-29 and a longshot to make the postseason. Right now, the Houston Rockets sit three and a half games ahead of them for the final Western Conference playoff spot. It will take a pretty massive run by Tinseltown’s finest to catch up.

Houston is currently being mentioned as a possible destination for Josh Smith, should the Atlanta Hawks trade him today, so that could also impact the way the final postseason picture plays out this year.

Regardless of whether L.A. catches the Rockets or not, though, fighting it out for the No. 8 seed isn’t what they had in mind when they traded for Dwight Howard and Steve Nash. The latter has actually been extremely unimpressive in his brief stint with the Lakers as well, but he has flown under the radar because of what a lightning rod for criticism Howard has turned into.

Given the Lakers’ lack of success over the past few months, there is understandably a lot of speculation floating around the league regarding Howard’s future with the team. His inability to mesh with Kobe Bryant coupled with his pending free agency is reason enough to justify the gossip.  

On Wednesday, with every major sports pundit on the planet advising him to pull the trigger on a deal that would send Howard elsewhere, Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak reassured the public that the 27-year-old wasn’t going anywhere.

"Dwight is our future," Kupchak told "The Herd with Colin Cowherd" on ESPN Radio. "Kobe [Bryant] has one more year on his deal [this year, plus one]. That's all I can bank on or this organization can bank on. I have no idea if he wants to continue to play beyond next year. As of now, we're looking at a two-year window, [and that] plays to the urgency of the situation and how we build the team. ... This team's window to win is this year and next year."

So there you go.

"We've been very consistent," Kupchak added. "We're not trading Dwight Howard. ... He will not be traded and there's nothing that anybody can do today to call me today and ask me, 'Would you do this?' and get a positive result."

Why won’t the Lakers move their mildly disgruntled big man? Because they know they won’t get fair value for him.

"It's hard to get talent in this league and to have a talent like Dwight Howard, we have no intention of trading Dwight Howard," Kupchak said. "He belongs to have his name on the wall [as a retired uniform] and a statue in front of Staples [Center] at some point and time."

Related: NBA Rumors: Celtics Trading Rajon Rondo to Magic or Hawks?

After Kupchak’s public reassurance that he wasn’t being traded, Howard came out and had arguably his best game of the season against the Boston Celtics. Who knows, maybe this is the dawn of a new day.

Either way, though, this much is for certain: Howard will remain in purple and gold at least through the end of this year.

After that?

"The only thing that matters is right now. Nobody can control what happens this off-season," Howard said on Wednesday night. "There's no need for me to make the decision right now to where I'm going to be in the future, but my goal hasn't changed. I want to win a championship and I want to win one here. I'm here right now."

Make of that what you will.

Related: NBA Rumors: Magic Trading JJ Redick to Spurs, Bulls, Pacers or Bucks?

(ESPN, Los Angeles Times)