Even though the two say they have haven’t kept in touch much this season, Atlanta Hawks forward Josh Smith remains sure about a few things surrounding his longtime friend Lakers center Dwight Howard.
First, Smith says he has a good idea on whether Howard will stay with the Lakers once he becomes an unrestricted free agent this offseason.
“I can’t pick his brain and be in his head but to me, I don’t see him going anywhere,” Smith said before the Lakers hosted the Hawks at Staples Center. “It would be a shock to me.”
“Dwight is a loyal athlete and loyal person,” Smith said . “He’s not a quitter and doesn’t run from situations. That’s why I believe with this franchise and the way he’s talked so well about it, I can’t see him going anywhere.”
Howard has refused to divulge publicly his intentions this offseason until that moment comes. Should he stay with the Lakers, he would re-sign for five years worth $117.9 million. That’s a huge jump compared to the four-year, $87.6 million deal he’d have with another team.
Still, Howard’s encountered frustrations on his first season with the Lakers. That’s included rehabbing from 10-month old back surgery, a torn labrum in his right shoulder, a relatively diminished offensive role and larger media scrutiny.
“He’s grasping that,” Smith said. “He’s trying to find his way on this team and trying to get back healthy. That’s the biggest thing he’s doing and worrying about. He’s getting his legs back under him and he’s starting to block more shots. It’s going to take some time.”
Howard and Smith grew up together in Atlanta and played together on the same AAU team. To this day, they often talk about eventually becoming teammates again.
“Situations like that are far fetched so it’s more, ‘What if we play with each other?’” Smith said. “In AAU basketball, we had a ton of success. You never know what the future entails. But we can talk about it. It might not necessarily happen. But it’s a good conversation.”
But Smith stressed neither he or Howard are actively trying to ensure that outcome.
“If it happens, it’ll be crazy,” Smith said. “But you never know. “
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org