Future is uncertain otherwise
The Lakers aren't a franchise that signs and trades its stars to other teams.
They aren't a franchise that gets bullied by demands and are forced to do things they don't want to do.
The Lakers are intent on re-signing Dwight Howard this summer. Any talk of them signing and trading him instead is just that, talk. The Lakers have never had a star player leave in the prime of his career and certainly not one who took a pay cut to leave L.A. for Houston or Atlanta.
If Howard wants to be the first to do so and play for his third team in two years, so be it. The Lakers will not help facilitate that wish, and that's the right choice.
The Lakers need to re-sign Howard because if they don't their future is uncertain. Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash might play two more seasons, the contracts of Pau Gasol and Metta World Peace expire after this season, and there's no guarantee they'll even be here when the season begins.
Sure, the Lakers will have a ton of cap room when everyone leaves, but who will want to come to a team with no franchise players and shaky management. As great as the Lakers have been, not enough credit is given to the fact that Dr. Jerry Buss was the owner and either Pat Riley or Phil Jackson was the coach when they won all those titles. Players wanted to play for those men.
How hard will it be to get free agents to play for Jim Buss and Mike D'Antoni? The first franchise player who will give his answer to that question is Howard. If his answer is to leave Los Angeles, that could be a scary sign of things to come for the Lakers.
L.A. shouldn't have to woo him
When the Lakers acquired Dwight Howard last summer, they envisioned him following in the footsteps of previous Lakers big men and leading the franchise to multiple championships over the next decade.
Fast-forward one year and it's clear the partnership has been anything but ideal. Howard doesn't seem to enjoy the pressure and expectations that come with playing for the Lakers. Meanwhile, L.A. is looking for a franchise player to transition the team into the post-Kobe Bryant era, and there are legitimate concerns over whether Howard can be that guy.
At this point, the best option is either sign-and-trading Howard for assets or letting him walk away from the additional $28 million before either side makes a regrettable long-term commitment.
While Howard is a once-in-a-generation talent, the Lakers shouldn't have to woo him this much. If he isn't enticed and motivated by the banners and retired jerseys hanging in the Staples Center rafters, he's playing for the wrong ballclub.
There are other suitors -- Houston, Atlanta, Dallas and even the Clippers -- and Howard could be moved in a sign and trade for first-round picks, cash, one-year deals and/or another blue-chip player.
If the trade market for Howard is limited and the Lakers can't nab another star, which is a likely scenario, the Lakers can just let Howard leave as a free agent, freeing up cap space to sign a star or two who actually wants to be in L.A. in summer 2014.