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Kobe Bryant wants Dwight Howard to return but won't push him

Dwight HowardLos Angeles LakersKobe BryantDallas MavericksAtlanta HawksHouston Rockets

Kobe Bryant wants free-agent center Dwight Howard to return to the Lakers this summer but he understands that's a choice Howard has to make for himself.

"It has to be his decision," said Bryant in a video interview with Mike Trudell of Lakers.com that was released Saturday. "The last thing you want to do is convince a person that they want to be here."

Howard will be courted by a long list of teams including the Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks and Atlanta Hawks.

"If you have to convince [someone to return], when challenges or adversity comes up next season, it's very easy to say, 'Well they had to convince me to be here anyway. I really didn't want to be here. I'd rather be [somewhere else] but they sold me on it,'" Bryant continued. "You want it to be his decision. When it's something that's rooted inside of him, it's something he champions. I just want to be there to assist his decision."

Teams will start talking to Howard at 9:01 p.m. PDT time. The Lakers  reportedly have asked to get the final meeting with the veteran center, after he's made his rounds with other courters.

"We saw what he could do at the end of the year when we all started clicking," said Bryant. "I think that makes him extremely, extremely valuable."

It's difficult to guess where Howard will end up, but it appears he will seriously consider leaving the Lakers after one season.

The Lakers can offer him the biggest contract — $118 million over five years — but that may or may not be the deciding factor.

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Email Eric Pincus at eric.pincus@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @EricPincus.

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