Since an early first round exit against the San Antonio Spurs in the playoffs, the Los Angeles Lakers have gotten absolutely no assurance that Dwight Howard would remain with the team beyond this season. In fact, most assume that Howard will bolt once he becomes a free agent in the summer (including Phil Jackson), and all reports about Howard up to this point have only indicated the possibilities of him landing in a variety of locations, including Houston, Dallas and even Golden State.
All we can really do at this point is assume and assume some more, since Howard refuses to discuss anything in detail about his plans (the smart thing to do, given his history). He did, however, answer some questions presented by Los Angeles Times writer T.J. Simers about certain matters, and there are some subtleties in his responses that makes you believe that he really may be ready to move on:
Between missed shots, I asked why he hasn’t committed to the Lakers.
“It’s free agency and I have the opportunity to choose where I’m going to play,” he said. “God opens doors, and I’m relying on my faith to direct me. “I don’t think it’s fair I get criticized for waiting on such an opportunity.”
But what does he want in a team?
“I want to win; I’ve done everything else,” he said. “I just want to win.”
Can the Lakers win?
“Any team I am on can win,” he said with a grin, “but nice try.”
What about getting more money or a chance to do TV shows here?
“I’ll get those opportunities later; it’s all about winning now,” he said.
So what do you think of D’Antoni? “I love him,” he said. “He’s a great person.”
Is he a great coach?
“He’s a great person and I’m glad we had the opportunity to be together,” said Howard, which some will undoubtedly interpret as goodbye.
What was never explicitly said, but also seemed to hang heavy in the air was the uncertainty in the Lakers’ front office, with Jim and Jeanie Buss. “I want to see what each opportunity offers,” Howard said. “I want to see how people plan on winning.” “So will I be seeing you next season?” I concluded. “I’m always a phone call or tweet away,” he said, while whistling and moving on.”
So in short, here’s what we can gather from Howard’s answers: he’s going to let his faith do the talking when deciding which team to play for, wants to refer to Mike D’Antoni as a “great person” when asked if he’s a great coach, and doesn’t want to talk about seeing Simers again.
Sorry, Lakers fans. The chances of him returning just doesn’t look so good (and some of you are probably okay with that). I’m not saying there’s no shot of him coming back at all, but you’ve got to hear him say something positive about the Lakers to have a sense that he’s considering them too, right? That interview screams “I’m out of here”, but we’ve certainly seen plenty of the unexpected when it comes to the NBA and free-agency situations. I think that’s about all you can hope for if you’re hoping for a miracle return.
Onto other news from around the league: