Lakers to get chance Tuesday to tell Dwight Howard why he should stay
The Lakers finally get their time with Dwight Howard, meeting with him Tuesday and trying to persuade him to stay with the franchise for five more years.
They will sell themselves as the 16-time NBA champions — how could they not? — and they also subtly will remind him Steve Nash is the only player currently under contract after next season.
As in, there’s a massive shopping spree on the way in a year.
They are expected to meet at a Beverly Hills location, not the Lakers’ facility, a minor example of Howard’s making the mountain come to the man.
The Lakers considered adding some of their legendary names to the meeting but decided against it, looking toward the future instead of the past.
One guy who couldn’t be there anyway, Magic Johnson, was on an annual European vacation, though Monday he uttered on his Twitter account the slogan the Lakers unveiled on billboards last week throughout Los Angeles: “Stay.”
Nash was also active Monday on Twitter before he boarded a plane from New York to Los Angeles, hammering out a quick, “Dwight Howard, we’re coming for you. You’re going to love the statue we build for you outside Staples in 20 yrs!”
Coach Mike D’Antoni landed at LAX on Monday and was on the list to be at Tuesday’s meeting. Kobe Bryant, General Manager Mitch Kupchak and Lakers business/marketing guru Tim Harris will also be there. Team executive Jim Buss is expected to be the only member representing the Buss family, though team governor Jeanie Buss might also be there.
The Lakers want everybody in their delegation to take part in the dialogue.
Meanwhile, Monday was a day for the longshots. Howard met in Los Angeles with Golden State and Atlanta, neither of which has much of a chance to get him.
The Warriors are too far over the salary cap to sign Howard as a free agent and can obtain him only via sign-and-trade, which won’t happen because a) the Lakers probably will have to take back Warriors players whose contracts extend beyond this season, denting the massive amount of salary-cap space they can spend next year and b) such a trade saps the Warriors of valuable players that would be sent to the Lakers, making Golden State less desirable in Howard’s eyes.
Just the same, one of the members of the Warriors’ contingent was Lakers legend Jerry West, now a consultant with Golden State.
Atlanta is Howard’s hometown team, but the Hawks have never been higher than fourth on his list, according to a person familiar with Howard’s thinking. Generally speaking, the Hawks have a weak fan base and little to no tradition, having never been to the NBA Finals since moving from St. Louis in 1968.
Tuesday is the much bigger day for Howard’s future. He will meet with the Dallas Mavericks and then the Lakers, completing a five-team circuit in under 48 hours in Los Angeles.
Howard’s camp has long been intrigued by the free-spending ways of Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. Howard’s agent, Dan Fegan, has a close working relationship with Cuban, who will bring Dirk Nowitzki to Los Angeles for the pitch to Howard.
Houston is still a threat to sign Howard, though the Lakers got the first word with him Sunday, craftily wedging in a brief meeting after free agency began at 9:01 p.m.
As Houston Rockets executives and luminaries (Hakeem Olajuwon, Clyde Drexler) piled into a Mercedes-Benz van for dinner with Howard in L.A., Kupchak had already driven over for some quick face time with the NBA’s top free agent.
They’ll also get the last word Tuesday, meeting with Howard in a final effort to pitch their importance to the player they employed last season …and hope to pay for five more years and $118 million.
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