It's pretty clear that Dwight Howard has no intention of staying with… (Sam Greenwood / Getty Images )
They say patience is a virtue. But does that describe the approach the Lakers should take in their pursuit of Dwight Howard?
The Orlando Magic appears to lack much urgency in dealing the disgruntled center; they're more interested in maximizing their trade value. Howard is prone to changing his mind, and last week's report that he's interested in the Lakers could mean absolutely nothing. And even if it lacks the same same splash as acquiring Howard would make, the Lakers still have to upgrade their bench.
There's already plenty of debate among Laker fans on whether the team should go after Howard or just stay with Andrew Bynum. But there also appears to be some debate as to how far the Lakers should go in chasing Howard. As with anything regarding negotiations, there are several pros and cons to consider.
Why the Lakers should stay patient in pursuing Howard: I've analyzed ad nauseum on why Howard would become a more valuable piece than Bynum. None of that has changed. But more importantly, it appears that the ongoing Howard talks haven't detracted from the Lakers making upgrades to the rest of their roster. They agreed to sign forward Antawn Jamison to a one-year deal for the veteran's minimum. The Lakers will re-sign Jordan Hill to a two-year, $8 million deal. And even if the Lakers have to find replacements for the likely departures of Matt Barnes and Troy Murphy, there's no one on the free-agent market who could slip out of their fingers because they're exerting time and energy on the Howard talks.
It's highly possible the Magic don't want to experience another season with Howard. It would further divide the locker room. Most of the game-to-game discussion will center on Howard's future. And this time, it's pretty clear that Howard has absolutely no intention of staying with Orlando once he becomes a free agent after the season. There's lots of time until training camp starts for Orlando to be patient -- and defiant. The Lakers can simply paddle along and wait. Then, when training camp arrives, the Lakers could take advantage of any sense of desperation the Magic has about not wanting him to be a distraction.
As far as Bynum goes, he's always acted as if he's indifferent regarding trade talks. After all, he's seen his name linked in breatheless trade reports, including those involving Jason Kidd, Kevin Garnett, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Howard. Even Kobe Bryant publicly demanded in expletive terms five years ago for the Lakers to ship Bynum out. It won't faze him one bit. But his uncertain future could illustrate the urgency Bynum needs to take in proving that he's matured since last season.
Why the Lakers should stop pursuing Howard: Even though the Lakers have made other signings during the Howard negotiations, it'd be understandable if they lost their patience in the same way the Brooklyn Nets did. At some point the Lakers will have to seriously consider that signing Bynum to a long-term extension is more valuable than pursuing Howard. He may express interest in staying with the Lakers, but he rightfully won't sign until the end of the season so he can maximize his deal. Meanwhile, Bynum and his agent, David Lee, have publicly indicated their interest in negotiating a long-term deal right now with the Lakers.
It would be ideal for the Lakers to have more clarity to this before the season. Bynum won't have emotional ups-and-downs as Pau Gasol did last season because of ongoing trade rumors. But it's possible Bynum could lash out with inconsistent effort and other signs of immaturity because he feels disrespected that the Lakers have kept his status in the wind.
Verdict: The Lakers don't have to make a decision now. So it's fine if they're remaining patient. But by no means should the Lakers enter training camp either without Howard or without Bynum's long-term extension. It would just create more uncertainty after going through a season full of it.
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