Dwight Howard: Why the LA Lakers Should Not Need a D-12 Long-Term Commitment

Nikhil BaradwajSenior Analyst IJuly 19, 2012

ORLANDO, FL - JUNE 14:  Dwight Howard #12 of the Orlando Magic drives on Andrew Bynum #17 of the Los Angeles Lakers in the third quarter of Game Five of the 2009 NBA Finals on June 14, 2009 at Amway Arena in Orlando, Florida.  NOTE TO USER:  User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Lakers are sitting on the doorstep of a championship season. If General Manager Mitch Kupchak is somehow able to acquire Dwight Howard, this team is the one to beat.

Yet, the Lakers are squabbling for a guarantee that Howard remains on the Lakers long-term, further mucking an already murky process.

Howard has said that he wants to play in Brooklyn and there were even reports that he would sign only with the Nets long-term.

However, with the signings of Deron Williams and Brook Lopez and the trade that brought Joe Johnson to the Nets, Brooklyn lacks the cap space to sign Howard in the summer of 2013.

At the end of the day, the superstar center is stuck in a conundrum. He whined all of last season and into the offseason about how he wanted to be traded to the Nets, that he left the Magic just disgusted with him.

It is very likely that Howard does not wear an Orlando Magic jersey in the 2012-13 season just because new General Manager Rob Hennigan wants to hit the ground running on the rebuilding process.

This scenario rules out the Brooklyn Nets because two of their key assets, Kris Humphries and Lopez, cannot be traded until January 15th.

Will Orlando wait that long for Brooklyn? They would have to endure this media circus for a few more months than they would want to.

So in the end, Howard really only has four conceivable destinations where he might be in 2013: Los Angeles, Dallas, Atlanta and Houston.

Is Howard going to choose three significantly worse situations over Los Angeles? Highly unlikely, especially since all three are much smaller basketball markets.

D-12 is trapped. He can draw out this process as long as he wants, in the hopes that the Magic wait until January 15th, which is the first day Lopez and Humphries can be dealt.

But his indecision has led him to a point of no return. He is going to be a Laker, whether we like it or not.

This is not the summer of 2010, where there were many great options available for top free agents. D-12 needs to understand that his "Brooklyn Dream" is over and that Los Angeles is his best bet.

So if I am Mitch Kupchak, I take the so-called "risk" of signing Howard. I let him say that he might test his value as a free agent.

At the end of the day, it really is all hogwash. Howard can take his chances at a weak free agent market. He can meet with Dallas, Houston, Atlanta and Cleveland representatives.

Is he really going to choose those inferior situations just because he had a bad phone conversation with Kobe Bryant?

If he does, there really is not anything the Lakers can do. If you can't sell a player to a big-market team that contends year in and year out, I guess he really does hold a grudge.

With this being said, the risk is a calculated one. Andrew Bynum lacks the intangibles and defensive capabilities to ever be the cornerstone of a team. While Howard is a pain off the court, he rarely makes poor decisions on the court.

Bynum has said that he will play anywhere. This nonchalant attitude has never worked for superstars in the past and it won't work in the future.

At best, the Lakers center is a glorified secondary weapon. Trading Bynum for a superb shot at a championship is well worth it, especially since he will command a maximum contract.

The Lakers will always be a marquee franchise and can pick up the pieces if Howard leaves, in the unlikely case that he does. There will be more free agents and opportunities for the Lakers to rebuild.

However, getting the opportunity to become the "team to beat" with one acquisition should never be passed up, especially since the Lakers have an aging core.

Dwight Howard is cornered. Now is the time for the deal to be made.