9:52 p.m. ET: It appears we have a question as to whether this is actually real or simply an altered photo, and since I’m no longer in L.A. and can’t simply drive over, we’ll have to trust my man Larry Brown, who called the hotel multiple times and was unable to get confirmation. I’ve pinged the folks who run the Lakers official Twitter feed as well, so once we hear for sure we’ll pass the information along. (OK, final update — not real. Lakers are apparently adding a Photoshop campaign to the real billboard one already in place.)
9:14 p.m. ET: The Lakers have maintained all along that re-signing Dwight Howard to a max contract in free agency this summer is the team’s number one priority, and they’re taking to the streets of Los Angeles to make it publicly known just how important the big man is to the future of the franchise.
The team has already posted a large banner on the side of the Staples Center, as well as a billboard on Hollywood Blvd. letting Howard and everyone in the city know that they want Dwight to remain a member of the Lakers.
Now, the team has continued its efforts by draping a Howard jersey over the front of the Beverly Hills Hotel, which is a hot spot for athletes, celebrities, and movie industry personnel.
The people in the know in Orlando will tell you that Dwight specifically referenced a lack of public support via billboards as a negative in his list of reasons for leaving Orlando, so the fact that the Lakers are going to these public lengths to impress Howard shouldn’t come as much of a surprise.
The notion that the Lakers are too proud of a franchise to beg players to play for them in this way is sheer nonsense. If this is something a player of Dwight’s caliber requires, then the organization is doing nothing more than its due diligence in making sure that every base is covered where Howard is concerned, to the point where if he decides to leave Los Angeles, the decision will be 100 percent his, with no reason to blame the Lakers for any perceived indiscretions.
[Photo via the Lakers official Twitter feed]