At 25-29, the Lakers hit the All-Star break in 10th place in the Western Conference and 3.5 games behind the Houston Rockets for the pivotal eighth seed.
While the Lakers certainly could make up that ground and sneak into the playoffs, there is absolutely nothing that has transpired this season to suggest they could make a deep run in this year's playoffs.
Despite this, the club is giving all indications that they will not trade their free-agent-to-be center.
That news comes to us from Howard himself in an article by the Sports Xchange, via Yahoo! Sports:
Howard will become a free agent at the end of the season. Earlier Friday he told reporters, "(The Lakers) told me they weren't going to trade me. I'd be surprised. They told me they wouldn't trade me. That's what (Kupchak) said."
Kupchak said much the same thing in a recent interview with Newsday.
Howard refused to say anything definitive about whether he plans to stay with the Lakers after this season.
"The only thing that matters is the present," Howard said. "And right now there's no need for me to talk about what happens at the end of the season. There's no need to go back and forth about it, I just feel like at the end of the year, I should have my opportunity to make my decision."
Now, it is not hard to see why the Lakers would maintain this position. Howard has long been regarded as the game's best center, and the Lakers are not among the teams that have a hard time inking big-time free agents.
Along with the Celtics, the Lakers are the NBA's most storied franchise; they have a sterling recent track record of success, and being a Laker is the quickest avenue towards overall stardom that the NBA offers.
However, with Howard and Bryant seemingly not being on the same page, one has to wonder how eager Dwight will be to return to the Lakers.
While Bryant told Damon Jones in the Nike Basketball Athlete Lounge that he has "two years max" left in his amazing career, that is still one to two more seasons that Dwight would be stuck playing with Bryant than if he jumped to a different team in free agency.
However, there is more to this story for the Lakers. After receiving back surgery this past offseason, Howard has struggled to regain his amazing athleticism.
On top of that, he is now struggling with a torn labrum in his shoulder. As a result, Howard's numbers in points are at his lowest since his second year in the league and the lowest since his rookie season in rebounds.
There is now plenty of reason to speculate if Howard will ever regain his physically dominant form, or if he will ever again be able to avoid the injury bug.
Is this the guy the Lakers really want to pin the future of their franchise to with a max contract, or even worse, hold onto him with the diminishing hope that he will even accept that contract?
I say no, and the Lakers should try to trade him while they can still get some sort of value for him.