by Zach Harper cbssportsline.com
With Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard hitting the open market in about 10 days, he has a lot of options on where he wants to take the next step in his career. There are plenty of rumors about the possibility of him joining the exciting young core with James Harden on the Houston Rockets. He could also possibly team up with Chris Paul and make the Atlanta Hawks a superpower in this league.
But there's also the very real possibility of him sticking this out with the Lakers and re-signing there. If it's up to Kobe Bryant, the Lakers will keep the three-time Defensive Player of the Year and lock him in with the franchise. Kobe was recently on 710 ESPN Los Angeles radio and said the Lakers "have to be able to keep him." Via the Los Angeles Times:
"Those guys are hard to find, they don't grow on trees," Bryant said on 710 ESPN Los Angeles. "When you have someone like that with his talent level, you have to be able to keep him and lock him in with this franchise." ...
Bryant said it's important as a free agent to make the decision from a business perspective while finding the best chance to win a championship.
"It's hard because a lot of times those two things don't align," he said. "With the history that this franchise has of having great centers, this would, in my opinion, be the perfect spot for him."
Howard was frustrating for a lot of fans this past season, especially Lakers fans who have been accustomed to so many great centers over the years coming to this team and exuding their dominance. That dominance often led to NBA titles. But the Lakers were a huge disappointment, almost missed the playoffs and didn't even win a game in the first round because of injuries. Howard didn't do the things in Los Angeles that he did with the Orlando Magic, except for alienate a fan base.
It's important to remember Howard was fresh off major back surgery this past season and never seemed fully healed. He also tore the labrum in his shoulder and played through it for most of the season. Even with all of those ailments, he still led the NBA in rebounding (12.4 per game) and scored 17.1 points per game on 57.8 percent shooting from the field. He also had the second-worst free throw percentage (49.2 percent) of his career (49.1 percent), both coming the last two seasons when he battled this back injury.
If he re-signs with the Lakers, it's safe to assume he'll improve greatly in his play on the court. But the team will also be dealing with two players, Steve Nash and Pau Gasol, who are well past their primes and dealing with their own injuries, and Bryant, who is attempting a comeback from a tore Achilles tendon.