It appears the Lakers are still interested in acquiring Dwight Howard from… (Reinhold Matay / Associated…)
Shortly after Steve Nash smiled and held up a Lakers jersey at his introductory news conference last week, General Manager Mitch Kupchak was asked if another home run could be hit this summer.
"So you're asking if we can do that twice?" he said. "I'm not quite sure that's possible."
Then again . . .
The Lakers remain committed to probing every corner to unearth Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard, who has one more year and $19.5 million left on his contract. What they want is a commitment from Howard, who has been reluctant to agree to a contract extension with them.
It started in January, when Kobe Bryant had at least one in-depth phone conversation with Howard, even discussing how the perennial All-Star could fit in the Lakers' scheme.
But one person with knowledge of the conversation said Howard came away feeling he wouldn't be the Lakers' top option for obvious reasons — it's Bryant's team — and he might not even be their second option because of the presence of Pau Gasol.
Howard has since been lukewarm toward the Lakers, who have had persistent talks with the Magic, particularly after the collapse of a multiteam deal last week that would have sent the unhappy Orlando center to the Brooklyn Nets.
Kupchak met with new Orlando General Manager Rob Hennigan on Tuesday in Las Vegas, but it was termed more of a get-acquainted meeting. After all, Kupchak talked with Hennigan the previous day . . . and the day before that . . . and . . . hasn't everybody heard this all before?
Orlando wants any trade partner to absorb more players than just Howard, but the Lakers have no interest in also acquiring forward Hedo Turkoglu, 33, who has two more years and a weighty $23.8 million on his contract.
The Lakers, however, are open to taking the slightly more palatable contract of Magic guard-forward Jason Richardson, 31, who has three years and $18.6 million remaining.
All-Star center Andrew Bynum continues to be the main trading piece in the Lakers' plan to land Howard, 26, who had surgery three months ago to repair a bulging disk in his back, a procedure that caused him to withdraw from the U.S. Olympic team.
Meanwhile, the Lakers keep trying to upgrade their reserves.
They're still interested in Antawn Jamison, an unrestricted free-agent forward who averaged 17.2 points last season for Cleveland but shot only 40.3% and would take a huge pay cut from the $15.1 million he made last season. Jamison would earn $1.4 million with the Lakers, the minimum salary for a veteran with his experience.
The Lakers saw two free agents work out Tuesday, though neither was a lock to be signed.
They weren't overly impressed by forward-center Jermaine O'Neal, 33, who averaged five points and 5.4 rebounds last season with Boston and played only 49 games the last two years because of injuries.
They also looked at Brandon Rush, a guard-forward who turned 27 this month and averaged 9.8 points last season with Golden State. The Warriors, though, are expected to match an offer sheet if the restricted free agent signs one with the Lakers for a maximum of $3.1 million next season.
Amid the uncertainty of Howard and the Lakers' bench, there was one shred of clarity.
The Lakers declined to use their "amnesty " provision before Tuesday's deadline, meaning Metta World Peace survived another season without being cut. They can use it next summer to waive one player from a short list and not pay luxury taxes on his salary: Bryant, Bynum, World Peace, Gasol or Steve Blake.