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Dwight Howard: Lakers Brass Smart to Show They Are Committed to D-12

LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 22:  Dwight Howard #12 of the Los Angeles Lakers smiles after being fouled in the first half against the Portland Trail Blazers at Staples Center on February 22, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. 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 Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
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Brian MaziqueCorrespondent IIIFebruary 23, 2013

The Los Angeles Lakers know how important Dwight Howard is to the future of their franchise, and the smartest thing they've done this season is expressing it publicly.

Per ESPN's Dan McMenamin, general manager Mitch Kupchak told The Herd With Colin Cowherd on ESPN Radio: "Dwight is our future."

Sensible Lakers fans should know that's the case.

If the Lakers are able to re-sign Howard at the end of this season, they should remember these problematic times when they are in contention for championships over the next five to seven years.

They should also remember the criticism Howard has received when he is the key cog of those teams.

Howard led the Orlando Magic to the NBA Finals against Kobe Bryant and the Lakers in 2009. It's foolish to think he can't once again be the best player on a championship team.

With the Lakers organization's influence and drawing power for free agents, it's more likely to happen than not.

Howard has been on a tear as of late, averaging 20 points, 12 rebounds and shooting just under 65 percent from the field in his last three games. The Lakers have won two games in a row, and Howard's play shouldn't surprise anyone.

After all, he is the best center on the planet. Even through a seemingly inconsistent season, Howard is an All-Star who is averaging 16.5 points and 11.9 rebounds per game.

I laugh at the fans who think those are only decent numbers.

In a season that has seen him injured, behaving immaturely, taking only 10.4 shots per game and the object of daily ridicule, Howard is leading the NBA in rebounding, fourth in field-goal percentage and fifth in blocked shots.

At 27 years old, the Lakers would be nuts not to consider him their future.

The team gave up, perhaps, the second-best center in the NBA to get Howard in Andrew Bynum. Bynum has yet to suit up for the 76ers, but has garnered his share of attention for bowling mishaps and hairstyles from hell.

Still, Bynum was a force when on the floor (averaged 18.8 points, 11.7 rebounds and 1.9 blocked shots in 2011-2012), and fans must remember he's just 25 years old. Parting with him was no small risk for the Lakers.

This is a time of transition for the franchise. The passing of Dr. Jerry Buss and the ending of Kobe Bryant's huge contract are the catalysts for this change.

The Lakers are fortunate to be in a position to win while an inevitable changing of the guard is taking place. Perhaps, Bryant is the greatest Laker of all time, but his time is drawing to a close.

If the Lakers are lucky, they'll be able to hand the reins over to Howard when the Mamba is done.

If the organization isn't able to secure Howard's services with an extension, in two years when Bryant has moved on, fans will wish D-12 was still wearing the purple and gold.

 

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