But with the Lakers struggling and Kobe Bryant injured, it simply couldn't happen with Howard. He needed to stay on the court. Stay with his team, too.
Instead, he walked out.
Not something the face of a franchise should do.
Granted, Howard wasn't the face of the Lakers. That would still be Bryant. Moments after Howard was ejected in that game against the Spurs, by the way, Bryant made his first public appearance since tearing his Achilles. He hobbled into the arena and took a seat behind the bench, coaching and cheering the rest of the game.
It was a not-so-subtle message: Howard might walk out on the team, but Kobe wouldn't.
And yet, the Lakers are hot to trot to bring back Howard. Maybe the smog in L.A. affects memory. Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak actually met with Howard before the Rockets did Sunday night in Beverly Hills. He only shook his hand and wished him luck, but it was a symbolic gesture. The Lakers wanted to be the first ones that Howard saw in the moments after free agency officially opened.
They are apparently willing to offer him a whopping five-year, $118 million contract.
No other team in the running can offer that much, but don't worry, Howard will still be able to live on what they ante. Houston, for example, has been shipping out players left and right to clear enough space on its roster to offer a four-year, $88 million deal, and with taxes being what they are in Texas, that money will go a long ways.
What's more, in a meeting with the Rockets that included Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler as well as Yao Ming via Skype from China, Rockets coach Kevin McHale reportedly told Howard that he would build his system around him.
Face of the franchise stuff.
The Rockets and the Lakers and every other team in the Dwight Howard sweepstakes want him to be that guy, but all the evidence is clear — he isn't.
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