OK, Who Wants To Sign Dwight Howard?

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After two years of trade requests and petulance and a stock-lowering season with the Lakers, it's time for the Dwight Howard free agency sweepstakes—and four teams have emerged as potential landing spots should Howard decide to leave L.A.

This is not a competition for a typical max player. If Howard's not damaged goods, he's at least slightly cursed. He forced Stan Van Gundy out, even as he spent a year trying to leave Orlando. When the Lakers gave up Andrew Bynum in a four-way trade to get Howard, every team won the deal—except the ones who got Howard or Bynum. He battled injury in Los Angeles, and played on an old, injury-wracked roster, and even as the Lakers seemed to get it together for a playoff run, Kobe Bryant went down. The fact is the Lakers have no idea how Howard fits in on their roster, even as other potential free agency destinations could be forgiven for fearing the worst-case scenario: a surly, ineffective, four-year albatross.


But he's still a damned good big man, one of the league's best, and he's just 27. The Lakers paid a grand total of $129.5 million for their roster this past season—including more than twice as much in luxury tax as the second-worst offender—but it's time to build that team around someone else. Pau Gasol's probably on his way out and Kobe Bryant can't play forever. The Lakers need Howard, perhaps, more than Howard needs the Lakers. And as Howard addressed the media following his exit interview with GM Mitch Kupchak, he didn't sound like a man hell-bent on staying.

"I want to get away from everything and focus on me and making the decision for me...For me, I'm going to do what's best for myself, what's going to make me happy."


The math is simple enough. The Lakers can offer more money and more years. The four potential suitors—the Rockets, Mavericks, Clippers, and Hawks—can offer fresh starts, and maybe even better teams.

But this is not the Summer of LeBron, where a signed contract guarantees years of dominance. This is more like a Long, Dark Dwight of the Soul, and any team that lands Howard commits to a flawed, mercurial centerpiece for four long years—and the Heat's Big Three and Carmelo Anthony could go on the market as early as 2014. Dwight Howard can be great, an anchor in the paint. He could also be an anchor around the neck of any franchise that gives out a max deal just because it can.