Per Ramona Shelburne and Dave McMenamin of ESPN Los Angeles, the big man won't make his return contingent upon the Lakers finding a new coach. "Howard has not asked for Mike D'Antoni to be fired and Howard will not ask for that," a source told them.
What will Howard be asking for? Championships. Lots of them.
Shelburne and McMenamin write that Superman will ultimately join the team he believes offers him the opportunity to win multiple titles. The head coach won't matter, only their ability to win.
As of right now, there is no front-runner for his services. According to Jeff Goodman of ESPN, no team has the inside track on convincing Howard to sign, though ESPN's Chris Broussard previously reported he's unlikely to return to the Lakers, mainly because of D'Antoni's system.
Los Angeles has been pulling out all the stops in its not-so-subtle campaign to re-sign Howard. Billboards have been plastered across Tinseltown in hopes of appealing to Howard's desire to be courted.
Sources told Shelburne and McMenamin that Howard is "flattered" by the Lakers' approach, enamored by the idea of a franchise with such a rich history fawning over him so openly.
Still, Howard isn't believed to be leaning one way or another. The verdict he renders will supposedly be about championships and those naked fingers of his. Advertisements, compliments and the spoken word will only go so far in any sales pitch. Rosters and future blueprints will have to speak for themselves.
Promising yet flexible infrastructures will catch Howard's attention first. Any team capable of contending now while also being in a position to improve substantially in the near future will have the means to effectively sway him.
"He knows that now, more than any other time, the decision has to be wholeheartedly his decision and his alone," said Shelburne and McMenamin's source about Howard.
Well, not entirely his alone. Those ringless fingers will have quite a bit of say in what he does next.