- Chris Broussard, NBA analyst
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Kupchak recently told Newsday the same thing, saying: "We will not trade Dwight Howard." Sources say Kupchak has told Howard several times that he has no intention of trading him.
There have been rumblings for the past month that the Lakers are considering moving Howard out of fear that he might leave as a free agent after the season. Despite their concerns, the Lakers have not directly asked Howard whether he plans to stay or go in free agency, according to sources.
Sources have told ESPNLosAngeles.com's Ramona Shelburne that the Lakers are "very confident" Howard will remain with the team this summer.
Howard has steadfastly refused to reveal his plans for this summer, and sources say he truly does not know what he will do. The sources add that he definitely will not ask to be traded.
Howard becomes a free agent July 1 but wants to live in the present, sticking to his goal of winning the first championship of his nine-year career this season, no matter how unlikely it might seem with the Los Angeles Lakers getting off to a 23-26 start more than three months into the season.
"Right now, my only focus is to get us into the playoffs and win the championship," Howard said in an interview Monday with ESPN's Stephen A. Smith. "Nothing else matters at this point."
Atlanta, Dallas and Houston will be Howard's chief suitors when he enters free agency July 1. But the Lakers can offer Howard a five-year contract worth roughly $118 million while every other team in the league can offer him only about $88 million over four years. The extra $30 million means a lot to Howard, sources said, and is definitely a major advantage for the Lakers. With the injuries he's recently suffered to his back and shoulder, Howard might be less inclined to give up the extra year of security.
"I understand, you know, what the Lakers want," Howard told Smith on Monday of his contract status. "And I also understand that right now, there's no need for all the circus and all the stuff that happened last year [with Orlando] to start back up. I don't want it, my team doesn't need it, I don't need it, and frankly, our fans don't need it neither."
Of the Lakers' three free-agent competitors, Houston appears to be the most favorable for Howard. Dallas is aging, and Howard is not keen on playing in his hometown of Atlanta. Houston, on the other hand, has star guard James Harden and is only a frontcourt star away from becoming a legitimate factor in the Western Conference.
While Howard had no interest in going to Houston last season, sources say he is aware the Rockets have become a more attractive destination since acquiring Harden.
ESPNLosAngeles.com's Dave McMenamin contributed to this report.
6dEthan Sherwood Strauss
7dMatt Walks, ESPN.com