The money, power and attention Dwight Howard so desperately wants are all there for the taking if he re-signs with the Los Angeles Lakers. So why isn't he shouting from the rooftops that L.A., and not Houston or Dallas, is where he longs to be?
According to Ken Berger of CBSSports.com, Howard is in no rush to commit to a Lakers return, and in fact, he's apparently giving some serious thought to a few other teams, particularly the Houston Rockets and Dallas Mavericks.
Though Howard is adamant his free agency not be marred by the circus-like environment that surrounded his departure from Orlando last summer, word already has spread to multiple levels of his support staff that Howard re-signing with the Lakers is far from a done deal.
Howard can talk about avoiding a circus all he wants, but if we've learned anything from the way he's handled virtually every public decision of his basketball life over the past couple of years, it's that he craves the attention that comes with situations like this one.
If we step back and look at the situation logically, it seems like Howard can't possibly be serious about leaving Los Angeles, can he?
For starters, Howard can make about $118 million on a five-year deal if he re-signs with his current team. Moving to another team as a free agent or as part of a sign-and-trade would limit Howard to "just" $88 million on a deal that could only span four years.
The NBA set up its collective bargaining agreement to encourage star players to remain with their teams, and by looking at Howard's situation, it's pretty clear that it achieved its goal in that regard.
And in theory, Howard's additional Los Angeles income wouldn't just be limited to his salary. Everyone knows that the endorsement dollars are bigger where the market is more robust, and L.A. gives D12 the opportunity to make a mint away from the basketball court.
In addition, Howard loves the bright lights and attention in Los Angeles. A place like Houston hardly provides the media exposure Howard seems to so highly covet.
Well, that was one issue. The other one had to do with Howard's apparent inability to conduct himself like an adult.
With Bryant recovering from a ruptured Achilles, Howard should be free to take control of the team. (God help them.)
The dollars and the attention are in Los Angeles. That's beyond doubt. But there are a couple of positives about leaving L.A. that we've got to mention for the sake of thoroughness. For one thing, there's a case to be made that wins might not be so easy to come by if Howard sticks around in Los Angeles.
With a high profile, championship legacy and apparent willingness to laugh as the luxury-tax threshold recedes in the rear view, the Lakers have the ability to turn things around in a hurry. But Mike D'Antoni certainly hasn't proved that he's capable of leading a winner, and based on some of his recent personnel decisions, GM Mitch Kupchak may have lost his touch.
The problem with that line of thinking, though, is that we've never seen any evidence to support the notion that Howard actually cares about winning. Sure, there were a few crocodile tears after L.A. bowed out of the playoffs, but we've seen far too much selfish behavior from D12 to believe that he was really all that distraught over being eliminated.
The case for the Rockets is pretty simple: They've got more young talent, a lot of cap flexibility, and a home state whose tax situation would ease the blow of the $30 million Howard would leave on the table by abandoning L.A. And for what it's worth, it seems as though at least one current member of the Rockets is interested in the idea of luring the big man to the Lone Star State.
Dallas has Dirk Nowitzki and the same tax break, but Howard has already tried his hand at joining up with an aging star in L.A., and that turned out to be an unqualified disaster.
Logically, it's difficult to imagine what Howard could want that the Lakers couldn't provide. But, again, maybe what Howard really wants—attention—is at the heart of this latest report.
So if you're sickened by the idea of dealing with yet another offseason in which D12 is a daily news item, you're going to need something to distract you. Well, either that, or you could take more drastic measures.
Look, Howard hasn't handled a single public relations move or career decision well in years. So it shouldn't be a shock that he's already mucking this one up. If reason prevails, Howard will be back in a Lakers uniform next season.
I guess the only problem with that thinking is that Howard hasn't done much lately to prove that he's a reasonable guy.