Dwight Howard will most likely not be playing for the Los Angeles Lakers next year, sources close to the team are saying.
The center is expected to leave the Lakers after one unsuccessful season, opting instead for a team where he is a better fit, a source said.
In doing so, Howard could be giving up $30 million. The Lakers are able to offer a five-year, $118 million contract, while other teams can offer a maximum four-year, $88 million deal.
Several teams have shown signs of interest in Dwight Howard. Both the Dallas Mavericks and Houston Rockets are said to be interested, and working out deals to dump payroll in order to bring him on board. Atlanta is also said to be interested, and rumors last week said the Clippers may be trying to work out a deal to bring Howard on board in a sign-and-trade.
The Los Angeles Lakers can’t be counted out of the Dwight Howard sweepstakes, however. He has a proponent in Kobe Bryant, who clashed with Howard during the season when he believed Dwight was taking too long to return from an injury. But Kobe is now recovering from an Achilles tear and has likely a few years left in the league, so winning another championship is a top priority.
In an interview with 710 ESPN Los Angeles, Bryant implied that the best chance at another title is by keeping Howard.
“Those guys are hard to find, they don’t grow on trees,” Kobe said. “When you have someone like that with his talent level, you have to be able to keep him and lock him in with this franchise.”
But other sources say that could be the problem for Dwight Howard. After starting his career at the team leader — and often the only decent player — for the Orlando Magic, Howard doesn’t want to play second fiddle to anyone, they say.
[Dwight Howard image via Scott Mecum]