NBA AM: Could Lakers Lose Dwight Howard?
Howard And The Lakers: Orlando fans can stop me if they have heard this one before; Dwight Howard might leave his team high and dry in free agency.
Lakers center Dwight Howard, fresh off a monster 31 point, 16 rebound and four block drubbing of the Milwaukee Bucks last night, has been battling injuries and has been trying to get himself right physically for most of the season; but, as Howard tries to get right physically more and more people in and around the Lakers say he is unhappy with his situation and there is growing doubt about his stated commitment to the Lakers, not only externally but internally.
The Lakers have said repeatedly that they are not worried about losing Howard to unrestricted free agency and that they have talked to Howard and his representatives enough to believe they have the advantage on keeping him long-term via a new contract in July.
There is a monetary reality to Howard’s situation. Howard can sign a five-year $100+ million contract with the Lakers. They are the only team he can land that kind of deal with thanks to the new NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement. If Howard opts to explore other situations the best he can hope for is a four-year deal worth some $80 million. The Lakers have $20 million in guaranteed money in their favor and the one of the largest sports markets on the planet to back them up.
The money matters and so does the security that comes with it, especially to Howard’s ego and especially given his recent injuries.
But, even with those glaring advantages, there is a still a sense of unknown because of how Howard handled the Orlando situation last year and the obvious problems the Lakers are facing on the floor. All of the losing has impacted Howard, who is often dejected in his locker and grumpier than most of his peers.
There have been numerous reports of unhappiness between Howard and Laker star Kobe Bryant, although both have tried to defuse that idea in their own way.
However, with the NBA Trade Deadline roughly a month away, there is a sense of uneasiness surrounding Howard’s future.
For Howard’s part his camp says he is happy and content in LA with the Lakers and he’ll likely re-sign there as soon as he is able.
If that’s genuinely true, he’s done a terrible job conveying that to the Lakers because while publicly they are talking up their confidence in keeping Howard long-term, there is still a sense that until he’s signed on the dotting line, Howard is just too unpredictable to bank on.
The Lakers are not going to explore trades involving Howard. That’s not even on the table according to sources close to the situation, but you can bet that in days leading up to the deadline that the Lakers will need to have to a real heart to heart with Howard, because losing him without compensation would be a devastating blow to the Lakers franchise.
The Lakers are currently 17-21 on the season and three games out of the eighth seed in the West. It typically takes 48 wins to crack the playoffs in the West meaning the Lakers would need to go at least 31-13 (.704) for the balance of their remaining 44 games to avoid being out of the playoffs and home in late April.
Failing to reach the post season could be devastating to the Lakers quest to keep Howard and with the window to the post-season getting tighter, the Lakers fear of losing Howard could be more than justified.
Harper: ‘I’m Not Just A Shooter’: Former Orlando Magic forward Justin Harper has been showcasing his game in the D-League hoping to get a call-up from an NBA team.
Harper spoke with HOOPSWORLD at the D-League Showcase in Reno and says he’s just trying to improve his game and show he has more to offer than just shooting.
The Kings And Seattle: The Sacramento Kings have until March 1st to apply for relocation, so there is plenty of time to reach a deal to sell the team if that is indeed what the Maloof family opts to do.
Last week word broke that the Kings were negotiating with a Seattle investment group about selling the team and ultimately relocating it to Seattle for a whopping $525 million valuation.
Now that the dust has settled on the news, there are some wrinkles to this that are worth talking about.
First, the Maloof family doesn’t own the team outright. They have several partners and their personal stake in the team is about 53 percent. Bob Hernreich owns roughly 12 percent and the bankruptcy trust of Book Cook owns seven percent. The remaining 23 percent is owned in smaller chunks by Jon Benvenuti, John Kehriotis and Dave Lucchetti.
Second, any deal that moves the Kings out of Sacramento would be hit with what’s expected to be a $30 million relocation fee by the NBA, although the NBA Board of Governors could establish a higher fee if they so choose. The most recent relocations in Oklahoma City, New Orleans and Memphis were hit with $30 million fees.
Lastly, if the Kings leave Sacramento they must repay some $77 million in loans owned to the city.
Combined, leaving Sacramento will cost the Maloofs more than $100 million of that $525 million valuation.
Now here is where things get fun.
The sale price of the Kings isn’t $525 million. That’s where the deal “values” the team, what would be sold is the 53 percent the Maloofs own ($278 million) and the 12 percent ($63 million) owned by minority investor Bob Hernreich – or a total of $341 million changing hands. From that figure more than $100 million is going to the NBA and the city of Sacramento.
Enter Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson.
Mayor Johnson is assembling an ownership group that would be willing to “net” the Maloofs and Bob Hernreich the same money and maybe a little more in order to keep the team in Sacramento and plans to again appeal directly to the NBA Board of Governors.
Mayor Johnson successfully convinced the Governors to block the Kings move to Anaheim in 2011 and has been granted another face to face meeting with the Board of Governors directly on this issue.
In order for a Sacramento Hail Mary play to work, not only will Johnson have to assemble a huge dollar sale deal, he’ll also have to deliver a fully fleshed out arena plan.
The relocation fee and the $77 million owed the city is a huge equalizer in this situation, because it represents a massive discount to a group trying to keep the team in Sacramento.
The one strike against Sacramento’s efforts to save their team is that every owner in the league wants to see a $525 million valuation close as that creates a valuation floor for their own teams.
It’s clear that the fight for the Kings is far from over. The math on the actual deal creates some options for both sides and they have until March 1st to punch this through without an extension from the NBA.
Don’t break out the Sonics gear just yet; there is still room for a different kind of deal.
Lakers Seek Exception: Sometimes in the NBA it’s better to have options and not use them than need options and not have them, so with that in mind the LA Lakers have requested an injury exception on forward Jordan Hill who will miss the rest of the season due to a hip injury. Tuesday was the league deadline for applying for an injury exception and the Lakers got their request in under the wire.
Hill is slated to earn $3.56 million this season meaning if the league grants the Lakers the injury exception it will be worth half of Hill’s salary or $1.78 million.
The Lakers, if granted the exception, should know something within the next week to ten days. They could use the exception to sign a replacement player or use it to trade for a player making $1.7 million or less.
The Lakers have been linked to free agent Kenyon Martin, who might be an easy get with the exception. The San Antonio Spurs are dangling DeJuan Blair, who will earn $1 million this season and could be obtained with the exception as well.
At the time of Hill’s injury the Lakers stance was they may not look to add any more salary to the team, and that still could be the case as the Lakers have a payroll in excess of $100 million this season and will be facing a luxury tax bill in the neighborhood of $30 million. Any dollars the Lakers add will be taxed, so adding anyone using the injury exception, if granted, would cost double what the Lakers agree to pay.
The Lakers technically would have two open roster spots after waiving guard Darius Johnson-Odom and being granted an exception for Jordan Hill.
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