In hopes of convincing Dwight Howard to stay, the Lakers will lean on
his teammates to provide a few assists.
Both Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash plan to attend the Lakers' meeting today with Howard at an undisclosed location in Los Angeles, according to league sources. The meeting will also include Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak and coach Mike D'Antoni, and possibly even executives Jeanie and Jim Buss.
"I hope Kobe, Steve, Coach D'Antoni, Mitch, Jim and Jeanie Buss can get @DwightHoward to stay with the Lakers!" Lakers legend Magic Johnson tweeted.
If the Lakers make any last-minute additions to their meeting, it won't include Johnson. He's vacationing in Europe and has no plans to participate in any campaign efforts toward Howard. Except tweeting of course.
"@DwightHoward Stay," Johnson tweeted on Monday. He then added the hashtag #StayD12, the phrase the Lakers coined on the seven billboards featuring Howard's likeness throughout Los Angeles.
Nash wasted no time on Monday typing out in 140 characters why Howard should re-sign with the Lakers to a five-year, $118 million contract, instead of a four-year $88 million with any other team.
"Flying from NYC to LA," Nash tweeted. "@DwightHoward we're coming for you. You're going to love the statue we build for you outside Staples
in 20 yrs!"
Howard spent Monday visiting with the Atlanta Hawks and the Golden State Warriors, marking the second consecutive day he's met with other teams intent on hearing how they'd help him win an NBA title.
The Hawks have plenty of cap space, but are considered a longshot despite Howard growing up in Atlanta. It's unlikely Golden State could acquire Howard, considering its lack of cap space would require a sign-and-trade with the Lakers. They've indicated privately and publicly they won't do such a thing.
The more likely candidates could include the Houston Rockets (who hosted a dinner for Howard on Sunday night) and the Dallas Mavericks (who will visit with Howard today before he sees the Lakers). That's why Kupchak has mounted an aggressive campaign toward luring Howard.
Kupchak met with Howard for a brief informal discussion for the past two days, according to a league source familiar with the talks. They met on Saturday and again on Sunday evening, shortly before Howard's scheduled dinner with Houston.
A day later, an official from one of the teams courting Howard marveled at Kupchak's strategy.
"A lot of these guys are really sensitive and feel like they've been disrespected," the official said. "Little things like that mean a lot. Give Mitch a lot of credit for being there."
The Lakers appear to be pulling out the stops for their meeting today, too. Representatives from Time Warner Cable SportsNet also plan to attend the meeting, according to a source familiar with the proceedings.
It's unclear what role the Lakers' flagship channel will play, but NBA rules prohibit them from offering Howard additional compensation. It's possible the channel could discuss with Howard various television opportunities.
Before this fullcourt press, Howard's teammates have remained deferential.
Bryant has mostly spent this offseason rehabbing his torn left Achilles tendon, while Nash has rehabbed a right hamstring injury. When Bryant became a free agent in 2004, he considered leaving the Lakers and possibly even joining the Clippers. But a face-to-face meeting with late Lakers owner Jerry Buss convinced Bryant to stay.
Despite their bumpy on-court chemistry with Howard, Bryant and Nash could play a similar role.
Kupchak recently called Bryant's free agency in 2004 "very similar" and "scary close" to Howard's current situation. At that time, Kupchak described the Lakers as feeling on "pins and needles" when Bryant initially considered joining the Clippers.
"There was a lot of uncertainty about what Kobe would do, a lot of rumor," Kupchak said. "Very similar to what's going on right now. When the phone call came in, we really didn't know which way it was going to go.
"There was a period where Kobe was earning his stripes in Los Angeles. Here it is, seven, eight or nine years later, and I think that's what would happen with Dwight once he puts his roots down and says this is the place I want to be."
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