Dwight Howard can smile about a missed free throw against Miami, but Orlando… (Sam Greenwood / Getty Images…)
Dwight Howard may soon find out he can't have it both ways.
He wants to remain with the Orlando Magic through this season, but refuses to sign a long-term deal or an extension. In turn, ESPN The Magazine's Chris Broussard reports Howard's plea has only pushed them closer to trading him before Thursday's trade deadline.
Meanwhile, the Lakers may also soon find out they can't have it both ways. As much as I've advocated in the past for the Lakers to acquire Howard, even if it means trading Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol, Howard's latest reaction should give the Lakers some pause. Below are the pros and cons.
Pros: Howard's still the best center in the game. It doesn't matter if Andrew Bynum's game has flourished or if the Lakers lose their depth by also losing Gasol. Howard's arrival ensures the Lakers a legitimate franchise player following Kobe Bryant's career. Considering the deal would have to involve a package to match salaries, it's possible such an acquisition could fill the Lakers' other needs. They range from point guard (Jameer Nelson), small forward (Hedo Turkoglu) or three-point shooting (Turkoglu, Jason Richardson). As flaky as Howard sounds about his intentions during free agency, the Hollywood lure, Bryant's intensity and perhaps a magical playoff run will convince him to stay.
Cons: This acquisition could seriously dent the Lakers' playoff chances, even more so than they face now. That's because Howard's arrival would give another variable prolonging the Lakers' transition period under Mike Brown. It would include adapting to his system as well as figuring out how much Howard would accept Bryant staying on top of the pecking order. This trade also could leave the Lakers empty-handed with their other needs at point guard, small forward and bench production. Because it remains strongly possible this deal wouldn't give the Lakers an instant title, they'd have less leverage in convincing Howard to stay when he could join a possibly restocked team (New Jersey Nets) or a more talented one (Dallas Mavericks). That would leave the Lakers with Bryant and nothing else.
Verdict: The Lakers should still take Orlando's phone calls leading up to noon Thursday. But everything depends on the details. If the Lakers can't get any assurances that he'd be open to signing an extension upon arrival, they're better off trying to address their actual needs. As helpful as it would be to have Howard, the Lakers still have a solid front-court punch with Bynum and Gasol.
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