Josh Smith says he expects his friend Dwight Howard to stay in L.A.

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It doesn’t make for great talk radio or arguing talking heads on television, but the smart money has always been that Dwight Howard will re-sign with the Lakers this summer (he is an unrestricted free agent). The Lakers can offer the most money, Howard likes living in Los Angeles and it would be another blow to his already-damaged image to walk away from the big stage (you can hear the cries of “he’s soft, he can’t handle it” already).

But don’t take my word for it, ask Hawks forward Josh Smith.

Smith is one of Howard’s best friends in the league and he told Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News he thinks Howard stays put.

“I can’t pick his brain and be in his head but to me, I don’t see him going anywhere,” Smith said before the Lakers hosted the Hawks at Staples Center. “It would be a shock to me.”

Why?

“Dwight is a loyal athlete and loyal person,” Smith said. “He’s not a quitter and doesn’t run from situations. That’s why I believe with this franchise and the way he’s talked so well about it, I can’t see him going anywhere.”

Fair or not, true or not, if Howard left the Lakers this summer to play for Houston or Dallas or any other team he would be called a quitter for leaving the franchise of Mikan, Kareem, Wilt and Shaq.

And him leaving seems even less likely after the Lakers recent run of play. They may make the playoffs, but even if not they have started to figure out an identity as a team, and a healthier Lakers with a full training camp (and a few more athletes after a Pau Gasol trade) could go back to being a title threat next season.

It’s not sexy, but he’s not going anywhere.

Free agent Josh Smith on the other hand… he is going to get a huge paycheck from someone this summer and it will not be Atlanta.