It’s all about the money. And it’s not necessarily as big a deal as Lakers fans think. But it might give the Lakers front office pause.
Lakers radio play-by-play man (and long-time Los Angeles sports personality) John Ireland reported on Tuesday that Dwight Howard’s agent Donald Fegan told the Lakers his client will not sign an extension if traded to the Lakers.
That makes trading for Howard more risky for the Lakers — if he will not sign an extension upon arrival he could play for the team the rest of this season and then opt out of the last year of his deal and bolt for New Jersey or Dallas (or wherever his heart chooses).
That does have to give the Lakers pause. But it’s not as big a deal as some make it out to be.
First, the Lakers could ask Howard to do what Chris Paul agreed to do with the Clippers when he was traded there — take his player option for next season off the table and opt in. Howard would then make $19.5 million next year.
An extension is a problem. An extend-and-trade only allows three years (including the current years on his contract) and 4.5% raises, and any extension that occurs within six months of a trade is treated like an extend-and-trade. If he was traded to the Lakers and subsequently extended, he could add on only one new year, with a 4.5% raise. If he was traded on, say, March 15, he could lock-in the additional year (on his existing deal), then sign an extension after September 15 that allowed for three new years and 7.5% raises.
Remember, under the terms of the new CBA, there is no sign-and-trade like Carmelo Anthony got — if the Lakers (or Nets) did a sign-and-trade Howard could only get the three years and smaller raises.
However, after a trade the Lakers would have Howard’s hometown “Bird rights” which means that if he was traded to them, opted out of his contract them re-signed with them they could offer the extra year and $30 million over the life of the deal that only the Magic can offer now.
If the Lakers are insistent that Howard sign an extension, either now or Sept. 15, and he refuses to agree to that, the Lakers have a much bigger risk to take in getting him now. But the ideal scenario might be to get him to take on that existing year then they have a few months (and maybe a deep playoff run) to convince him to sign that extension in September.
Jerry Buss has always been a gambler. If the Lakers could make a deal with Orlando — and that is a massive, massive “if” bordering on very unlikely when you hear the people in Orlando talk — he might be willing to bet he could convince Howard to stay. But is Jim Buss willing to make that same gamble?