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It’s no secret that the Los Angeles Lakers have had their eye on Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard for quite a while now. But according to multiple sources, Howard’s agent, Donald Fegan, has told the Lakers organization this week that his client would not sign a contract extension with them if they were to land him in a deal before the March 15th trade deadline.
No specific reason has been given regarding this, but the overwhelming consensus is that Howard has no desire to play second-fiddle to Kobe Bryant out in L.A. Howard has established himself as the league’s best center for several years now, and has always been the number one offensive option in Orlando.
Howard’s unwillingness to sign an extension with Los Angeles might have knocked the wheels right off a rumored trade between the Lakers and Magic, that John Cherwa of the L.A. Times reported earlier this week. In the article, Cherwa states that the Lakers, Magic, and Toronto Raptors were constructing a three-way deal, which would ship Howard to the Lakers on March 1st.
In return, the Magic would receive the two Laker All Star big men, center Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol, along with point guard Jose Calderon from the Raptors. In addition to Howard, the Lakers would also get Magic point guard Jameer Nelson and forward Hedo Turkoglu. It had not been determined what the Raptors would get out of the deal.
Howard’s indecisiveness concerning the idea of either leaving or staying in Orlando before 2013 arrives has been one of the major storylines throughout this shortened NBA season.
If he were to leave central Florida, it is well-known that the teams appearing to be contenders for his services are the Lakers, Dallas Mavericks, and soon-to-be Brooklyn Nets.
Upon hearing the latest from Howard’s agent, Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak is now left with one of the most difficult decisions that he will ever have to make if Howard and the Magic ultimately decide to split ways before the deadline.
He will have to decide – if the Magic and Howard do decide to go in different directions – whether or not he is willing to risk giving up excellent assets such as Bynum and Gasol, in hopes that the front office could convince Howard to change his mind once again and sign a long-term deal with the Lakers.
The reward, if the Lakers are able to acquire Howard and successfully lock him up, could be the presence of a similar matchup problem that teams faced against Los Angeles during the Kobe-Shaq days of the early 2000’s. O’Neal was also the league’s dominant center during that era, and alongside Bryant the two were able to win three consecutive titles from 2000-2002, establishing a powerful dynasty.
Laker fans could certainly envision their team making this type of run with Howard at center.
But the risk might be far too great. Kupchak’s biggest fear is putting his team in the same position that the Nets have now found themselves in, with All Star point guard Deron Williams.
New Jersey gave up a multitude of young pieces and draft picks in order to bring in Williams, despite not receiving confirmation that he would sign a contract extension that would keep him with them past the 2012 season. If Williams chooses to leave the currently non-contending Nets this summer in free agency, the trade would have essentially been for nothing.
That’s exactly the situation that might keep Kupchak from pulling the trigger on a Howard deal.
If Kupchak has an opportunity to get Howard into a Laker uniform, his final decision will either turn him into one of the most loved men in all of southern California, or one of the most hated and unemployed in the area.
Let’s see if Howard and the Magic give him that chance.
Image Courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/keithallison/