LOS ANGELES — Not long ago, Dwight Howard was making it known that he wanted to play for the Brooklyn Nets and not the Los Angeles Lakers. Those two teams, along with the Houston Rockets, have made the most noise about acquiring the Orlando Magic’s All-Star center. But Howard seemingly had eyes only for the Nets and said he wouldn’t sign a contract extension with any of the other clubs.
That no longer appears to be the case.
A day after Howard was spotted at Tuesday’s Phillies-Dodgers game — he’s in Los Angeles rehabilitating his back after April 20 surgery — a source close to the Howard camp told FOXSportsWest.com the big man would be happy to play for the Lakers and that Orlando’s front office is holding up the trade.
“Dwight would definitely play for the Lakers, but he has to be traded there first,” said the source, who requested anonymity. “He has no problem with the Lakers at all, and in fact is waiting for the trade to happen. The roadblock is that the (Magic) GM (Rob Hennigan) still thinks he can talk Howard into staying and signing a new contract. That’s not going to happen. Dwight might not sign an extension right away with the Lakers, either, but I’m sure that down the road he will.”
In his first month on the job, Hennigan was reportedly rebuffed by Howard the first time he tried to convince him to stay in Orlando. But Hennigan hasn’t given up on swaying Howard, the source said, and is making negotiations tough for all the teams involved.
After the Nets dropped out of the hunt when the trade talks dragged on too long for them, the Lakers quickly jumped back into the picture. One rumored package has Howard going to Los Angeles, Lakers center Andrew Bynum heading to Cleveland and the Cavs sending Anderson Varejao and a package of picks and/or prospects to the Magic.
Although he’s coming off back surgery to repair a herniated disk, Howard is expected to be back for the entire 2012-13 season. Howard could join Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and Pau Gasol to give the Lakers one of the best — if not the best — starting lineup in the NBA.
Bryant has repeatedly encouraged Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak to acquire Howard, even though it would mean giving up the talented, young — and sometimes troubled — Bynum. Bryant has talked often about his desire to win a sixth NBA championship, which would tie him with Michael Jordan. A Bryant-Howard duo, complemented by Nash and Gasol, would likely be favored to get to the Finals against the defending champion Miami Heat, despite the improvement of the youthful and speedy Oklahoma City Thunder, who lost to the Heat in the title round.
“Dwight’s just waiting to see what’s going to happen,” the source said. “He’d like to play for the Lakers. But it’s not up to him right now. Others have kept this from already happening