The Lakers got the last word they requested with Dwight Howard, holding the final meeting with the offseason’s most coveted free agent on Tuesday.
The presentation from the Lakers lasted less than two hours, and was reported to include Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, and Mike D’Antoni, along with team general manager Mitch Kupchak, members of the Buss family which owns the team, and representatives from Time Warner Cable, as well.
Nash and D’Antoni spoke briefly with reporters before leaving the scene, and while both sounded hopeful, they also know that the decision lies completely in Dwight’s hands.
“I’d like to say I was persuasive, but it’s a tough decision for Dwight,” Nash said, via Mark Medina of the L.A. Daily News. “We talked about last year and how it could be built on.”
Howard predictably didn’t want to get into the specifics or be badgered into answering questions about when his decision will be reached.
“I had a lot of great meetings,” he said, via Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com.
Howard met with five teams in total — the Rockets opened the festivities Sunday night, and were followed by the Warriors, Hawks and Mavericks before wrapping things up with the Lakers.
The Warriors would need to complete a sign-and-trade to acquire Howard under the salary cap rules, and the Lakers have previously said that’s not an option they’ll offer to Howard as part of this process.
Howard is expected to make his decision as soon as the moratorium for signing free agent contracts is lifted on July 10, but can verbally agree to either stay with the Lakers or play somewhere else anytime before then — which is what’s been happening with the high volume of trades and free agent signings we’ve seen in recent days.
As far as handicapping the odds of where Howard will ultimately choose to sign, anyone who followed his saga with the Magic a season ago knows better than to try to predict what Howard will decide. As D’Antoni said following the Lakers’ last formal chance to persuade Dwight to stay, all anyone can do is hope for the best.
“You do what you got to do,” D’Antoni said. “Dwight will make his decision. Hopefully it’s the Lakers.”
Kupchak released a statement following the meeting, via Lakers.com:
“Jim Buss, Mike D’Antoni, Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Tim Harris and I, along with representatives from our partners at Time Warner Cable SportsNet and AEG, met this afternoon for approximately two hours with Dwight Howard and his representatives Dan Fegan and Happy Walters. At the meeting, we told him how important he is to the Lakers team, franchise, fans and community, and why we feel this is the best place for him to continue his career. We are hopeful that Dwight decides to remain a Laker.”