Nobody around the league really thinks Dwight Howard is going leave the Los Angeles Lakers at the end of the season. Howard’s people had said this was a “trial season” in Los Angeles, but nobody really believes it.
For one, the guy just went through a nine-month public relations disaster trying to force his way out of Orlando. Turning around and starting the free agency process over again would not help his image. Plus, he’s in a big market that will pay him max money, where he has national and international endorsement opportunities, and where he can win. Also, he’s close to Disneyland. What else can he want?
That said, Howard is not signing an extension in Los Angeles — one of the quirks (one of the flaws, really) of the new CBA is that players can get a bigger contract becoming a free agent and re-signing with the same team than they can just signing an extension. They get one more guaranteed year and bigger raises. So Howard is going to wait.
All that means when Howard is asked about staying with the Lakers — as Fox Sports asked him recently as part of a wide-ranging interview — Howard is non-committal. Mostly.
“I think the best thing to do is talk about it at the end of the year,” Howard said confidentially despite seeing his basketball mortality up close a few months ago with the spinal surgery. “We just went through that last season, basically, and I don’t want to go through it again or see anyone have to go through it.
“This is going to be my decision, and I’m going to wait till the end of the year. But I’m happy to be in L.A. This is a great place. I love the coaching staff and I love the organization for everything they’ve done for me since I got traded here.
“Hopefully I’ll have a long career here in L.A.”
He’s going to be asked this roughly 652,985 times over the course of this season, he needs to stick with some variation of this same answer. “I’m not making any decisions until after the season. I love LA but am focused on winning a title right now.” He needs the Crash Davis lesson in practicing his clichés.
We’ll see how that goes. But next summer, don’t expect him to move on again.