NBA Free Agency: The Lakers’ Full-Court Press
When Dwight Howard decided to forgo the opportunity to play college basketball in favor of heading directly to the NBA Draft in 2004, he forfeited his right to be truly pursued and recruited by just about every major university in the United States. When Howard decided to “opt-in” to the final year of his contract with the Orlando Magic just prior to the trading deadline in March 2012, he again gave up the opportunity to experience the free agency process. Once Howard was presented with this opening yet again, it should have come to no one’s surprise that he would seize the moment.
Placing it in ‘layman’s terms’, if you were at the top of your professional field, and had several attractive competitive companies vying for your services, then you would do the exact same thing. Ultimately, as Howard has mentioned on more than one occasion, the decision will come down to the best opportunity of winning NBA Championships.
We can be certain the Lakers will remind Howard of the fact that the organization has qualified for nearly half of all NBA Finals (31) over the history of the NBA. Howard must look no further than GM Mitch Kupchak’s office window that overlooks their El Segundo training facility to know the franchise has captured 16 of those 31 attempts at an NBA title. Those close to Howard have confirmed that while he has a great deal of respect for the history of the Lakers, the plan for the next five years is of far more importance to the enigmatic nine-year NBA veteran.
While ‘history’ isn’t the most important consideration for Howard at this point, he might do himself a favor by at least weighing the track record of all potential suitors. Quite simply, even though the Lakers have experienced their share of hardships over the years, they’ve always shown a dedication to maximizing assets in order to place themselves into a position to acquire the best talent available. A task the organization did when obtaining Howard, himself. While other organizations may have succumbed to internal and public scrutiny over their unwillingness to part ways with Andrew Bynum when several marquee names were available along the way, Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak each possessed the foresight to wait until the exact player they wanted became a possibility. That player was Dwight Howard, and they were even able to obtain previously a seldom-used, but interchangeable forward in Earl Clark along with him.
Neither the public, nor the team are privy to their plans, but fans and players alike have always been able to take solace in the fact that titles have been and will continue to be the organization’s first (and only) priority and focus. The Los Angeles Lakers may not have ever publicly recruited a free agent in this nature, but they’ve stopped at nothing to prove their desire to re-sign Howard and build their next dynasty with him as the figurative and literal centerpiece.
According to ESPN’s J.A. Adande, Jack Nicholson has already called Howard about why he should remain in Los Angeles. Although the Lakers will have the final meeting with Howard and his representatives, several sources close to the organization told USA Today Sports that not only did Mitch Kupchak discuss Howard’s future with him on Saturday (6/29), but he also decided to pay Howard a personal visit prior to his meeting with the Houston Rockets’ contingency on Sunday night. There have been mixed reports upon how Howard actually felt about their presentation, which included GM Daryl Morey, Hakeem Olajuwon, James Harden, Chandler Parsons, among others, but it was widely reported that Howard inquired about whether the Rockets would be able to acquire a third superstar to place alongside himself and James Harden. With rumors of the Rockets attempting to package Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin for the rights to Atlanta Hawks free agent forward Josh Smith (Howard’s longtime friend) swirling, Houston had better act swiftly if they want to finally sway Howard to the ‘Lone Star State’.
The Lakers have several additional surprises planned for their pitch. ESPN LA’s Dave McMenamin also reported the news of a plan to have a Time Warner Cable representative in attendance at their Tuesday. It should be noted that due to TWC’s affiliation with the Lakers, Howard would not be able to receive additional compensation beyond his contract, monetary or not. They can only talk about how they would cover him and the team. It is, however, widely believed Howard would covet the opportunity to be a regular fixture on the ‘big’ and ‘small’ screen alike.
Beyond the pitch, the Lakers are also actively working on surrounding Howard with players possessing a more complementary skill set to his game. The front office has already contacted each of these free agents: G Jordan Farmar, G/F Nick Young, F Carlos Delfino, F Chase Budinger, F Matt Barnes, F Francisco Garcia, and F Wayne Ellington.
Clearly, the front office is targeting interchangeable players that combine shooting ability with youth and athleticism. Kupchack and Jim Buss will have to convince a couple of these players to sign at a slightly discounted rate, but a re-signed Howard could obviously be just the added incentive they would need.