The season did not go as expected for the Los Angeles Lakers, which has left the notion of re-signing Dwight Howard far from a certainty.
There were high hopes for this squad after acquiring the three-time Defensive Player of the Year, as well as former MVP Steve Nash. However, injuries took a toll and the Lakers were barely able to sneak into the playoffs on the final day of the regular season.
The experiment then came to an end as the San Antonio Spurs swept the No. 7 seed in the first round of the playoffs.
Now, the question remains of what Howard will do as an unrestricted free agent.
After the final loss to the Spurs, the center called the season a "nightmare" but stated that he would take some time to think about his future (via Marc J. Spears of Yahoo!):
I'm going to step away from everything for a couple of weeks. I'm going to clear my head before I do or talk about anything as far as next season. I think I deserve that and that's what I'm going to do.
It is obvious that the big man will get a maximum-level contract somewhere around the league. Even in a down year for him, Howard finished with 17.1 points per game and led the NBA with an average of 12.4 rebounds.
He was also selected to the All-Star game for the seventh year in a row.
As much as people will blame him at least partially for the team's struggles, it is obvious that he is one of the most talented players in the league.
However, the question still remains about whether that will be with the Lakers or not. Spears quotes a source that says he will first weigh his options:
He's going to sign a long-term deal. It has to be the right spot, the right commitment. There is no clear choice. The Lakers choice has longevity. They've won a lot of championships. But at the same time, that's not where they're at any more.
Besides Los Angeles, the other teams that are expected to be in the running for the center include the Dallas Mavericks, Houston Rockets, Atlanta Hawks and others, per Spears.
Then again, Howard might have given some insight into his mindset on Twitter. After a long apology for the way the season ended, he finished with this tweet to Lakers' fans:
Dwight Howard @DwightHoward
I hope I get the chance to make it up to you!” Thank u la.4/29/2013, 7:52:44 AM
This might mean nothing as he still looks to weigh his options, or it could mean that he truly wants to return to Los Angeles to prove that this year was a fluke. He should want his redemption.
If Howard does decide to move on, the attention will still be with him on his new team, even if the spotlight is not quite as bright.
Either way, choosing his next team will likely be the biggest decision of his career. It is only fair to give him some time to think it through before choosing his next destination.