Los Angeles Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak has vowed that the team will not trade Dwight Howard by Thursday’s deadline.
Howard and Pau Gasol have been involved in multiple trade rumors in a season where the Lakers have fallen far short of expectations. However, the Lakers brass have publicly stated that they are dedicated to winning with their current roster.
Chris Sheridan of sheridanhoops.com, however, isn’t so sure Howard will remain in Los Angeles for the remainder of the season. In an interview on WFAN, the reporter said he thinks there’s a 50-50 chance that Howard is moved by 3 p.m. eastern time on Feb. 21.
“Everybody in the NBA is well aware that the Lakers are a complete mess,” Sheridan told Joe Benigno and Evan Roberts on Tuesday. “Despite their denials and despite their telling Dwight Howard, ‘Look, we’re not going to trade you,’ at a certain point they have to realize that this is a lost season for the Los Angeles Lakers.”
Sheridan reports that the Brooklyn Nets are continuing their pursuit of the center. They almost sent Brook Lopez and draft picks to the Orlando Magic in the offseason for Howard, but were unable to get a deal done. Now, Sheridan says the Nets might be able to acquire Howard without giving up their best big man.
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“The Nets have been trying to get this guy for two years … They can get him without giving up Brook. They (can) give up (Kris) Humphries, MarShon Brooks, Tyshawn Taylor, a couple No. 1 picks — and then the one that really makes the deal, and you have to follow European basketball to get this — is they throw in all the European players.”
Brooklyn has a few foreign players under contract that are not currently in the NBA. In the past few years, they have signed Bosnian power forward Mirza Teletovic and drafted Bojan Bogdanovic, who is considered one of the top players in Europe.
Los Angeles wouldn’t be receiving a star player in the proposed deal, but that might not be the team’s main concern. Sheridan states that the Lakers are looking to get under the salary cap by 2015. That summer, LeBron James will be able to opt out of his contract with the Miami Heat, and L.A. is preparing to make a run at the former MVP.
With a record of 25-29 at the All-Star break, the Lakers are not a legitimate title contender. They still trail the Houston Rockets for the final playoff spot in the West, and would have very little chance of beating teams like the Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs, if they were to land the No.8 seed.
L.A.’s biggest priority will likely be on strengthening their team for the future. Howard will be a free agent in the summer, and even though Los Angeles can offer him more money than any other club, he may very well sign elsewhere.
“I was out in Houston this past weekend at the All-Star Game and I spent a lot of time talking to Dwight Howard,” said Sheridan. “Let me tell you something — the guy is miserable. I’ve never seen a player as miserable in his current circumstances as this guy is right now. He said he wants the game to be fun for him again.”
Howard won’t re-sign with the Lakers if he’s not happy. The big man has clashed with Kobe Bryant, and the two, reportedly, almost got into a fight last month. According to the New York Post, Howard mocked Bryant at the All-Star Game, and there was friction between the two in the locker room.
The Dallas Mavericks and Houston Rockets will both have enough room under the salary cap to sign Howard to a maximum-salary contract. The Lakers’ lack of success and Howard’s relationship with Bryant may force him to leave California for Texas.
If the Lakers fear that they will lose the center for nothing, Howard may suit up for Brooklyn in the second half of this season.