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Wednesday, June 26, 2013
Updated: June 27, 12:36 PM ET
Signs ask Dwight Howard to 'Stay'

By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com

LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Lakers want Dwight Howard to re-sign and don't care who knows it.

The team unveiled a massive banner on the side of Staples Center on Wednesday with a photo of Howard and one message: "Stay."

Dwight Howard
This image can be seen on a billboard on Hollywood Boulevard and is part of the Lakers' campaign to lure Dwight Howard back to the team in free agency.

The sign is one of "six or seven" billboards the Lakers plan on putting up in "various key locations" to try to woo the free agent-to-be, according to team spokesman John Black. The Lakers also unveiled a billboard above Hollywood Boulevard with the same message. Both signs include the hashtag "STAYD12," hoping the message catches on through social media. Black said the team will also take out a full-page advertisement in the Los Angeles Times.

Black described the campaign as a "company-wide initiative" agreed upon by both the basketball operations and business side of the Lakers as part of the team's plan to get the seven-time All-Star to sign a max contract extension to remain in L.A.

While it might seem out of the ordinary for a team with 16 championships to be so forthcoming about its interest in a single player, Black said the Lakers have treated previous players such as Shaquille O'Neal to grandiose displays of appreciation. They just have not embarked on this type of campaign with a free agent.

"We knew that there would be a wide range of opinions," Black said. "Our opinion, which we've made clear, is that our top priority is signing Dwight. We want to let him know how important he is to us out in the public. We're comfortable letting the public know how we feel."

When asked about Howard, Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak told the team website on Tuesday, "He's our future."

The NBA free-agency period officially begins at midnight ET on July 1, marking the start of when competing teams are allowed to contact Howard and his representatives.

A max deal with the Lakers for Howard would be five years, $118 million. The most he could receive from another team -- the Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks, Atlanta Hawks, Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers will be among the other potential suitors -- would be four years, $87.6 million.

Howard plans to hear the other pitches.

"I will sit down with these teams and hear what they have to say," Howard recently told the Orange County Register. "See if their plans and my plans fit and go with the best option that will help my game expand, and get to where I want to get to."

Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant said he will make a personal plea to Howard when the time is right.

"You don't start the selling process right before he goes and does all this stuff," Bryant told ESPNLosAngeles.com earlier this month. "You want to get the last word. You want to have the final word and the closing argument."

Steve Nash smiled when a reporter mentioned the Howard billboard on Wednesday. He also addressed Howard's future.

"We love Dwight," Nash said after playing in his foundation's annual celebrity soccer game in New York. "We were just scratching the surface last year with all the injuries, (and) we think we can really form something special after having a year under our belt and going through a training camp together."

Nash is confident that Howard can thrive under coach Mike D'Antoni. Howard complained at times last season about his role in D'Antoni's offense.

"He played Mike's offense pretty much in Orlando, so if he (felt comfortable) in Orlando, I think we can make it work (in Los Angeles)," Nash said. "We need to surround him with some shooters, but I think he'll be great in it."

The earliest Howard can sign any new contract is July 10, when the NBA lifts a moratorium on new business.

ESPN New York's Ian Begley contributed to this report.