Dwight Howard #12 of the Los Angeles Lakers entered free agency and was meeting with a host of teams, but Mitch Kupchak and the Lakers did not relent until the final hour. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Howard was expected to start his process with the Houston Rockets having the first opportunity to court the coveted big man. However, Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak reached out and decided to personally reiterate the Lakers’ desire to sign the polarizing free agent.
According to Sam Amick of USA Today, Kupchak had a lengthy discussion with Howard on Saturday to persuade the center that he belonged in the same building as the jerseys of George Mikan, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O’Neal, and Wilt Chamberlain (Wilt was Howard’s favorite in the bunch).
As Sunday 9 p.m. Pacific Time arrived, Howard was scheduled to meet with the Rockets for a dinner presentation. Prior to departing for the meeting, Kupchak unexpectedly appeared at Howard’s door to wish him well over the next few days of meetings and, conceivably, get in one last word.
Whether or not Howard embraces Los Angeles, Kupchak and the Lakers have not been shy in displaying their desire to keep the star center. Some of the lobbying and public displays have resulted in fan backlash, but ultimately, the organization has taken an approach tailored to Howard’s personality.
If it works, the Lakers will not have any regrets about their approach. If Howard chooses to go elsewhere, the Lakers will go to sleep knowing that they did not hold back in showing their interest.
Howard expects to meet with the Golden State Warriors and Atlanta Hawks on Monday and the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday. After all that is done, the Lakers will have the final meeting with Howard on Tuesday. Presumably, Howard will take some time before announcing his decision, but July 10 appears to be the special day.
Howard’s Lakers teammates took to social media to offer their thoughts. First, Kobe Bryant tweeted a thinly veiled reminder directed at Howard. Only moments after teams were provided permission to talk to Howard, Bryant tweeted, “Start of free agency is always interesting..Many teams. Only one Lakers.”
On Monday morning, Steve Nash was a bit more direct when he shared that he was “Flying from NYC to LA. @Dwight Howard we’re coming for you. You’re going to love the statue we build for you outside Staples in 20 yrs[sic]!”
Over the next 10 days or until Howard decides to announce his decision, the Lakers organization and fans will suffer through hearsay and speculation. The important point to keep in mind is that nothing is final or fact until Howard speaks it himself.