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With all the courtship that has been going on for Dwight Howard’s services over the last week, one may be inclined to think that if he leaves Los Angeles, the Lakers will enter a downward spiral and burn into flames. However, this is definitely not the case.

Sure, the Lakers will be better off with Howard on their roster. He is and should be the biggest priority for the Lakers this offseason. He’s a dominant force on both ends of the court and if his shoulder shows signs of improvement, he could put up MVP type numbers like he did in Orlando in 2013-14. There is no doubt that the team has a better chance to win a title with him in the lineup.

With that said, having Howard in purple and gold is not a necessity for the team to be successful this year and beyond. This isn’t the same situation the Cleveland Cavaliers faced when LeBron James bolted to Miami, leaving Cleveland with limited and marginal players.

If Howard leaves, the Lakers will have seven players on the roster for 2013-14 in Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Metta World Peace, Jordan Hill, Steve Nash, Steve Blake, and Jodie Meeks. The team has also given center Robert Sacre a qualifying offer to bring him back. Finally, assuming they sign second round pick Ryan Kelly, the Lakers will have nine men on the team.

No matter what happens with Howard, the Lakers must bring in a few bench players this summer who can shoot, defend, and show signs of athleticism that will fit in Mike D’Antoni’s fast paced system. Even if Howard stays, the Lakers aren’t winning anything without some much needed depth.

But, if Howard leaves, even more importance will be placed on the quality of the players they decide to bring this summer.  There are plenty of shooting options available for the Lakers in free agency and they can definitely improve their depth if they make the right moves. They’ll need to rely on their mini mid-level exception plus a few good pickups with their veteran’s minimum, but it’s not out of the realm of possibilities that they succeed using their exceptions.

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From Daniel Buerge, Lakers Nation: After his surprise announcement this morning (that ended up just being him announcing a reality show with Terrell Owens), it was then announced that he will exercise his player option to remain with the Lakers for next season. According to Sam Amick of USA Today, World Peace will be back with the Lakers next season (assuming the team doesn’t use their Amnesty option).”According to a person with knowledge of the situation, the veteran small forward will play out the final year of his contract (worth $7.7 million) rather than exercise the early termination option on his deal.”There were rumors that World Peace might consider walking away from the final year of his deal, but few expected him to turn down nearly $8 million, a number he wouldn’t come close to receiving if he was to be a free agent and picked up by another team.

From Staff And Wire Reports, LA Times: A person with knowledge of the negotiations told the Associated Press that Indiana Pacers assistant coach Brian Shaw has agreed to succeed George Karl as coach of theDenver Nuggets. The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity Monday night because the deal hadn’t been officially announced. The Nuggets called a news conference for Tuesday afternoon to introduce their new coach. The Denver Post first reported the agreement with Shaw, and the former Phil Jackson pupil told the newspaper he has been “prepared by the best of the best” for his first NBA head coaching job.

From Dave McMenamin, ESPN LA: While two former No. 1 picks in LeBron James and Tim Duncan dominated and defined the NBA Finals for their respective teams, the series wouldn’t have been what it was without a couple of second-round picks. Manu Ginobili, selected No. 57 by San Antonio in 1999, was brilliant in Game 5 of the Finals and gave the Spurs a 3-2 series lead by putting up 24 points and 10 assists. Mario Chalmers, who went No. 34 in 2008 to Minnesota before being traded to Miami, came up huge in all three of the Heat’s home wins and averaged 17.7 points in Games 2, 6 and 7 to help the Heat to the title. In Thursday’s NBA Draft, the Los Angeles Lakers will find themselves looking for a similar impact player in the second round. For the sixth straight year, the Lakers do not have a first round pick.

From Ben R, Silver Screen & Roll: To say that mock drafts are an inexact science goes without saying. Ultimately, they are collections of educated guesses and pretty much worthless in predictive value aside from obvious choices at the top of the order. And this year, even that last item is not the case, as the Cavaliers debate whether to pick Nerlens Noel, Alex Len, or a number of other options. All of this notwithstanding, merely by attempting to make sense of a crapshoot of a process, we stir the imagination and at least introduce the possibilities for what your team will be looking at in your range, which is all you can ask for on draft night.

Metta’s Announcement 
http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=-nwh9CFrW0U

From Dan Duangdao, Lakers Nation: In one of the most trying seasons of his career, Kobe Bryant has openly discussed retirement and has reiterated that it is realistic that he would hang it up after his current contract expires, which is at the end of next season. This was before the season-ending Achilles tendon rupture on April 12, 2013. While looking at the scar on his Achilles during an interview in Brazil, Bryant talked about his recovery so far and might have possibly reconsidered his retirement plans. Courtesy of KB824Legend (h/t Los Angeles Times), Kobe stated: “I can easily see myself playing another three or four years.”

From TheGreatMambino, Silver Screen & Roll: Coming off spectacular run to the Finals that was tantalizingly close to a fifth title, Tim Duncan has reignited the argument of who is the greatest player of his generation. The question is simple: whose career has been greater, the Big Fundamental or the Black Mamba? One roll of the basketball, and this would be a short article. In an epic Game 7 last Thursday, Tim Duncan had the ball in the post for hisSan Antonio Spurs, staring elimination in the face. Time was running out–48 seconds to be exact–and the team’s all-time franchise player made his move to the center of the key, and attempted a right hook shot over the 6’8″ Shane Battier that would tie the game. This shot was the very same one he’d make 99 out of 100 times, maybe even 999 out of 1,000 times. But that night, that one odd number seemed to rear its ugly head.

From Arash Markazi, ESPN LA: Phil Jackson isn’t quite sure when Kobe Bryant will return to the court next season, but he’s convinced Bryant won’t leave the hardwood for good until he at least ties Michael Jordan’s six titles and surpasses Jordan on the all-time scoring list. “His goal is another championship,” Jackson said Thursday. “He also has a chance to replaceMichael Jordan in the all-time scoring list. Those are two goals, with the first one being a championship, that Kobe would like to accomplish.” Bryant, who has five titles to Jordan’s six, is fourth on the NBA’s all-time scoring list with 31,617 points, behind Jordan’s 32,292. Bryant said Thursday his goal is to return to the court with the Lakers sometime in November or December after rupturing his Achilles tendon at the end of last season. “It’s to be seen how well he recovers from the operation,” Jackson said. “Odds are and the belief is it will be very soon in November, which is remarkable.

From Eric Pincus, LA Times: The rules changed when the league adopted the 2011 collective bargaining agreement, but Lakers executive and owner Jeanie Buss is confident the franchise will navigate its way back to the top. “We are in 100% in support of those agreements, but as much as they’d like to try to revenue share and make things equal — our basketball expertise, they can’t revenue share away from us,” Buss said.  “I believe that as they keep trying to make things more fair, they can never take away what the Lakers have — our history, our experience, our brain power in our front office.  We’ll always have an advantage.” On Wednesday, at a Time Warner Cable Media event to honor her late father, Dr. Jerry Buss, Jeanie said the franchise willingly accepted the more stringent rules — including steeper luxury taxes for teams over the salary cap — for the good of the NBA.

From Lucas Tucker, Yahoo Sports: Fresh off their first “title” of Pacific Division winner, the Los Angeles Clippers are bringing Doc Rivers to Hollywood to man their sidelines. There’s no denying that Doc is a top-tier coach, but there might be some culture shock next October when he watches the Clippers raise their first banner in Staples Center – celebrating last year’s division title. Doc comes from a place that doesn’t celebrate anything less than championships. Neither do the Clippers’ roommates. Hiring Doc is another move in the right direction, but should you ever question which franchise rules Los Angeles, just look at the rafters in Staples Center. Coming from Boston, Doc knows which L.A. is chant-worthy.

 

Few NBA players have ever suffered the type of hit to their reputation as a player that Dwight Howard has over the past two seasons. Just two years ago he was the consensus top big man in the game and the gulf between him and the number 2 player was larger than any other top player at his position and the man below him.

In the two seasons, since, however, Howard’s brand as a player has taken a major hit. From the poor way he handled his pending free agency in Orlando to his trade “demand” to his back tracking to his season ending injury and then to how he performed on the court this season during his recovery, the luster to Howard’s reputation as an elite player in the league was severely tarnished.

Now that he’s finally hit the point in which he’s an unrestricted free agent, there are real questions about whether or not he’s worthy of the chase teams are sure to put on in order to obtain his services. It’s probably better to take a step back and realize that, yes, Dwight Howard is worth it.

Does he have issues with his game? Of course. Most every player does. But what Howard has shown, even in a season when he clearly wasn’t at his best, is that teams respect his game immensely. Even with an “unpolished” offensive game, Dwight is swarmed in the post and on his dives to the rim out of the pick and roll. Even when he was clearly limited physically, teams were hesitant to all out attack him defensively by targeting him in isolation or in the pick and roll. Even while he played through what was obviously a still hurting back, Dwight put up strong numbers and had a high impact on the game — though, as the year went on this was more true than at the beginning.

This past week, there have been several rumors and rumblings about where Dwight may go. The latest talk was that the Clippers covet him and would, potentially, be open to trying to trade for him. And then there are the long reported landing spots of Houston, Dallas, and, even, Atlanta. However, in an interview just a few days ago, Kobe Bryant had a simple message for the Lakers and Dwight: Just lock him up.

Kobe’s not wrong. There’s no doubt in my mind that if it came to having to deal Howard, the Lakers could work out a way to get a strong package in exchange for trading him. Whether it’s a version of the rumored offer the Clippers would have on the table or some other group of players and picks from a different team, there will be deals presented to the Lakers should it come to that.

But, in reality, it’s probably better that it doesn’t come to that. Because regardless of what you think of Dwight as a person due to how he’s handled his business over the past two seasons, he’s still one of the top talents in the league. It’s easy to forget that when we all spent so much time picking apart his game over the past 18 months, but as the second half of the season showed, the player who was a consensus top 5 (and probably top 3) talent in the league is still worth holding onto.

From Kurt Helin, Pro Basketball Talk: My only question is: Did Metta World Peace make the recommendation? In his quest to get over his free throw shooting woes this season — 49.2 percent — Howard admitted to T.J. Simers of the Los Angeles Times that he saw the team’s psychologist about it. “I have only one problem and it’s between my ears,” he said, while admitting he visited a Lakers’ psychiatrist. “I just think too much.” Howard has said that before — it’s not form, it’s in his mind. And you see when teams have gone to the hack-a-Howard strategy and just fouled him over and over he gets his rhythm going and starts to sink a respectable percentage of his free throws.

From Suki Thind, Lakers Nation: Well, here’s another edition of our weekly historic box scores selection. This week, we feature none other than Lakers great Wilt Chamberlain and his 100-point game. Wilt was actually with the Philadelphia Warriors when it happened back on March 2, 1962. A few weeks ago, we featured Kobe Bryant’s 81-point performances–the second highest point total in NBA history–so it’s only fitting that we also featured the highest points total by any single player, ever. Chamberlain was in just his third season at the time and was averaging a whopping 50.4 points per game.

From TheGreatMambino, Silver Screen & Roll: Of the myriad of questions floating around the Los Angeles Lakers this summer, there’s no front office issue that could shift from extremely impactful to borderline insignificant like the amnesty provision debate. For the uninitiated, the amnesty provision is a one-time opportunity for a team to waive any player who signed his contract before December 2011 and have his salary wiped from the team’s salary cap figure. In many cases, teams will use this provision to clear a player’s cap number off the books in order to fit another man’s contract onto the books. In the Lakers’ case, the amnesty cut would most likely be used to simply reduce steep luxury taxes that could potentially go into the eight or even nine figures. The only restrictions that a team faces when cutting a player via the amnesty is that the player would have to be with the same team since December 2011 (thus, he could not have been traded in that time). The Lakers will have four such players under contract that are eligible for the amnesty provision: Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Steve Blake and Metta World Peace.

From T.J. Simers, LA Times: My daughter, Kelzer, is a mother now with three children, and it’s been more than a decade since she spent much time shooting a basketball. But I flew Kelzer in from Arizona to teach Dwight Howard how to shoot free throws because she still has to be better than he is. Who isn’t? We all met at UCLA, Howard was as friendly as always and relaxed after fishing trips to Lake Tahoe and Aspen. He posted Twitter pictures of the fish that had jumped in his boat or the ones he claimed he had caught. But they were the wrong kind of trophies for some Lakers fans. “You just can’t please people,” Howard said. “I catch fish and it’s a problem. People were upset I was out having fun; they thought I should be sitting in a room all upset because we lost. “I am upset, but I’m not going to stop living life. “I couldn’t watch the playoffs I was so ticked. Everywhere I went I saw a Tim Duncan jersey, and you know how much I hated that.”

From Dave McMenamin, ESPN LA: Kobe Bryant had a film session last week, only this time he found himself turning off Dr. James Naismith’s game to watch Dr. Seuss. “I tried watching a game,” Bryant told me Monday in a sit-down interview. “I tried watching Miami-Indiana, Game 3 maybe or Game 4, I can’t really remember, but I’m sitting in bed, I’m watching it. My kids jump in the bed, I’m sitting there watching the game and they’re like, ‘Hey, we want to watch ‘The Lorax.’ Can we watch ‘The Lorax’? I was like, ‘No, I’m watching the & Yeah, what the hell. Why not? Yeah, sure. What am I watching this for anyway? Yeah, let’s watch ‘The Lorax.'” Instead of tuning into LeBron James playing basketball with ease, Bryant chose to watch the little furry guy who speaks for the trees. Yup, this is as close to retirement that Bryant has ever been. And he seems to be just fine with that.

A Day In The Life

Dave Murphy —  June 1, 2013

I’m on the phone with an old buddy from Los Angeles and he says, “dude, you should move back here.” I answer in the most predictable of ways. “Yeah, I know. That would be awesome.” An earth-shattering statement? Hardly. Will it lead anywhere? No, it’s just a handful of words during the course of a conversation in the course of a day or a week. The words go hand-in-hand with other statements or conversations that take place in everyday life. Looks like there might be rain tomorrow. I’m going to the store for a few things. The traffic out there is brutal.

In the high-stakes game of professional sports contracts, casual conversations are given heightened importance. It’s the same in the high-stakes game of business or war and peace. Words are how we communicate and they are used, shaped and shifted to suit the occasion. The NBA free agency period doesn’t start until July 1st but the appetite for news and commentary needs to be fed. Or at least we think it does. Isn’t this why I’m typing these words? I’ll proof them and insert hyperlinks and load them into an online queue. The links of course are the blood-filled arteries that attract the hits. We want some, we want more.

The folks in Houston are wading into the discussion. It spiders out to other places which naturally includes the mega-media market where Dwight Howard currently resides. The prize free agent reportedly had a conversation with his buddy James Harden. These things do happen – people send a text, pick up a call, have a communication in some shape or form. It’s rarely on record of course so it’s posited and relayed in the most common of ways – sources close to the process told… and then we get to the heart of the matter which is usually speculation but that’s how the beast is fed, right? One guy says, “dude, you should come play here.” And the other guy says, Yeah, I know. That would be awesome.”

The Dwight saga hasn’t yet begun to approach critical mass in Los Angeles. It may yet or it may not. The Lakers center has only been here for one season and the whole crazy affair was snake-bitten from the start, ending with a first-round exit as the face of the franchise watched from the sideline on crutches. If you’re looking for a full-scale media meltdown, wait a year until Kobe’s contract expires. Bring your sharpened sticks and marshmallows – the flames will be seen around the world.

The NBA finals are still nearly a week away. The draft happens in a month. And then free agency. The need to feed the beast never expires though, it is relentless and will not be sated. Sometimes the news is of a sobering nature. Sometimes it’s a thoughtful debate about a cornerstone athlete. More often it’s simply a random catch-and-shoot. Somewhere an NBA player touches a tiny icon on his screen and smiles. “I read the news today, oh boy.”

 

From Drew Garrison, Silver Screen & Roll: Steve Nash may be 39, but the man doesn’t have any plans to retire. Nash was in court on Wednesday dealing with a personal matter, and while sworn under oath, stated that he intends to continue his basketball career, according to an exclusive report from TMZ: 39-year-old Steve Nash swore under penalty of perjury … the Los Angeles Lakers star has no plans to hang up his jersey and retire from basketball, TMZ has learned. In fact, Steve said he has more than a year left on the lease for his sweet pad in Manhattan Beach, the city that a bunch of the Lakers call home.Nash appeared in 50 games through the regular season for the Los Angeles Lakers and played in two games during the playoffs. It comes as no surprise that Nash intends to continue his playing career, but this serves as another confirmation from the man himself.

From Dave McMenamin, ESPN LA: The Los Angeles Lakers have a coach in Mike D’Antoni, but do they have what they need? Phil Jackson doesn’t seem to think so. While Jackson has said he has no plans to return to the NBA as a head coach, the 11-time championship-winning coach said he would know what to do with the Lakers if they came asking for help. “I would find one of my assistant coaches to work with me to help them just as quickly as possible because I know what they need,” Jackson said in an interview with “The Herd with Colin Cowherd” on ESPN Radio on Wednesday. “I think they need to get back inside, where the strength of their team is and use that presence in there to dominate games. I think there is a way to do that.” Cowherd posited that an inside-oriented approach would not occur with D’Antoni leading the team and Jackson replied, “You’re right.”

From Elizabeth Benson, Lakers Nation: Expectations were not lived up to this season by the Los Angeles Lakers, not even close. A season filled with frustration, struggles and confusion was mixed in with a late on-set determination by the team to make the playoffs. However, their injury-plagued season was still met by an early exit from the playoffs. As Mitch Kupchak alluded to during his exit interview, when a team loses, changes must happen. While we don’t know what those changes are just yet, the biggest question after Dwight re-signing or not has to do with Dwight’s partner in the frontcourt and his future in Los Angeles. What are the Lakers going to do with two-time champion, Pau Gasol? We asked this question to some of our Lakers Nation writers. Let’s see what they had to say.

From Eric Pincus, LA Times: Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak suggested he doesn’t expect to get an early commitment from impending free agent Dwight Howard. “It’s my understanding that he’ll be a free agent on July 1,” said Kupchak to Maggie Gray of SI.comlast week at the Brooklyn Nets training facility for a pre-draft combine. “He’ll have opportunities that he’ll look at and hopefully we’ll be in the running or we’ll be at the top in the very end.” After the Lakers completed exit meetings following their four-game sweep by the San Antonio Spurs, Kupchak stressed the importance of getting early notice from Howard, which would enable to team to start building around him before July (near the NBA Draft in June). “I think he understands that the sooner he makes a decision, the better it is for everybody,” Kupchak said in April. “I don’t know if that means a week, a month or seven weeks. It allows us to plan and it allows him to start putting down roots in the city. People can no longer say, ‘I wonder what he’s going to do? Is he going to be gone?’ We’re hoping that he chooses to stay in Los Angeles.”

From Kurt Helin, Pro Basketball Talk: When you put your precious young son or daughter to bed at night, don’t you want the thoughts of Metta World Peace in their head? Well, now you can have it — World Peace has written a children’s book, “Metta’s Bedtime Stories.” You can buy it right now and be reading it tomorrow. (Thanks to Mark Medina at the LA Daily News for finding this gem.) The stories include “Tomorrow,” “Reach for the Sky,” “One Wish,” “Mud in My Bed,” and “I’m Afraid of the Dark.” Metta’s got some child in him — the man wore a Cookie Monster T-shirt to his exit interview with the team GM. So maybe this works, these could be good and teach good lessons. (I’m not going to condemn what I haven’t read… except for anything by Dan Brown.)

From Mike Bresnahan, LA Times: Steve Nash couldn’t finish this season because of injuries, but he knew where to start next season.With Dwight Howard. Nash was “very hopeful” the soon-to-be free-agent center would return to the Lakers. “I think this is the place for him,” Nash said Monday. “He’s in the prime of his career. He’s got his best years ahead of him. He can play for one of the greatest franchises in sports and an amazing city. This has got to be the place for him and I’m hopeful that he sees it that way.” Howard, 27, can sign a five-year, $118-million deal with the Lakers in July or a four-year, $88-million deal with another team. Reserve guard Jodie Meeks, who built a solid bond with Howard during their first season with the Lakers, also seemed to think a reunion would be best.

From C.A. Clark, Silver Screen & Roll: The season from hell. A nightmare. The cursed year. These are the words being bandied about Lakers Nation now that the 2012-2013 Los Angeles Lakers has been mercifully put to rest. From the fans to the bloggers, the players and even the coach, everyone agrees this year was an abysmal failure on all fronts. Therein lies the problem … on all fronts. If the Lakers’ troubles were singular, or uniform, knowing what to do next would be easy. If the problems all stemmed from poor chemistry, or ill-fitting personnel, then the solution would be much simpler. If injuries were all that kept the Lakers from being great, there wouldn’t be a need to do anything at all. But the Lakers organization is not that lucky. Instead, they have many difficult decisions to make, and very little real information with which to make those decisions. That’s the worst part of the debacle that was the failed 2012-2013 Lakers season: Not knowing whether to try it again.

From Kurt Helin, Pro Basketball Talk: The San Antonio Spurs didn’t just end the Lakers season, they put Los Angeles out of its misery. That was the first time the Lakers have been swept in the first round of the playoffs since 1967, but you could see it coming for a long time. From the injuries during training camp, to the firing of a coach five games into the season, to the hiring of a new coach with a radically different philosophy and style that didn’t match the roster, to more injuries, to fan dissatisfaction, to Kobe Bryant blowing out his Achilles, it was all building to this ugly sweep by the Spurs. The question now is how do the Lakers spend their summer vacation? What steps do they take to become the contenders they thought they were back in October. Here are five suggestions.

From Dave McMenamin, ESPN LA: Just before 1 a.m. on Monday morning, a few hours after leaving Staples Center following the Los Angeles Lakers’ season-ending loss to the San Antonio Spurs, Dwight Howard addressed his murky future with the team. “I hope I get the chance to make it up to you! Thank u la,” Howard posted on Twitter. Whether that means Howard will indeed sign a five-year, $118 million contract extension when he becomes a free agent come July 1 and remain a Laker remains to be seen. Howard will be able to explain what he meant by the tweet when he addresses the media following his exit interview with Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak on Tuesday, much like some of his teammates did Monday, including Metta World Peace, who said too much was put on Howard’s shoulders this season. “I think we put a little too much pressure on Dwight and as responsible leaders, we gave him a little too much responsibility,” said World Peace.

From Kelly Dwyer, Yahoo Sports: In terms of overall word count, the NBA blogosphere probably broke the all-time record this season when it came to the 2012-13 Los Angeles Lakers. It’s true that the 2010-11 Miami Heat, fresh off of LeBron James’ annoying “Decision,” really turned on the content providers, but something about this collection of stars hit home with both writers and readers. It certainly hit home with me. The chance for the two greatest guards of their respective generation to mix with the NBA’s best center and most versatile big man had me salivating last summer. I didn’t appreciate Los Angeles’ borderline-cruel great timing as they seemingly fleeced both Orlando and Phoenix into acquiring the services of Steve Nash and Dwight Howard. Even with the caveats – age, health, the presence of Mike Brown on Los Angeles’ sideline – I assumed that an 82-game season would last long enough for the Lakers to figure it all out and start to find their groove just as they hit the postseason.