In hopes to convince Dwight Howard to stay, the Lakers will lean on a few of his teammates in hopes they can provide a few assists.
Both Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash plan to be among the Lakers’ contingent Tuesday when they will meet with Howard to convince him to resign with them to a five-year deal worth $118 million, according to league sources. The meeting will also include Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak and coach Mike D’Antoni, possibly even executives Jeanie and Jim Buss.
Bryant has mostly spent this offseason focusing on rehabbing his torn left Achilles tendon, progressing enough to shoot free throws Sunday at the Lakers’ facility in El Segundo. Steve Nash has mostly spent his summer rehabbing from a right hamstring injury and participating in a charity soccer game last week in New York City to benefit his foundation. Although both Bryant and Nash have publicly stated the important in the Lakers resigning Howard, they have allowed Howard to have his space in the weeks following the team’s first-round exit to the San Antonio Spurs in late April.
Meanwhile, Houston’s James Harden and Chandler Parsons as well as Dallas’ Dirk Nowitzki are reported to have contacted Howard to convince him to join their respective teams. Bryant and Nash will soon step up their involvement in talking with Howard.
The Lakers plan to tout their 16 NBA championships and what Kupchak described earlier this week as “an enormous amount of financial flexibility.” Only Nash remains under contract next season for $9.7 million. An influx of starts are expected to become free agents next season, including LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, John Wall, Paul George, among others.
When Bryant became a free agent in 2004, he considered leaving the Lakers and possibly even joining their cross-town counterpart in the Clippers. But a face-to-face meeting with the late Lakers owner Jerry Buss convinced Bryant to stay. Kupchak recently called Bryant’s free agency “very similar” and “scary close” to Howard’s current situation. At that time Kupchak described the Lakers feeling on “pins and needles.”
“There was a lot of uncertainty about what Kobe would do, a lot of rumor,” Kupchak said. “Very similar to what’s going on right now. When the phone call came in, we really didn’t know which way it was going to go.”
Kupchak strongly argued that if Lakers fans would quickly embrace Howard and give him a sense of piece if he stays, much in the same way Bryant eventually experienced.
“There was a period where Kobe was earning his stripes in Los Angeles,” Kupchak said. “Here it is, seven, eight or nine years later and I think that’s what would happen with Dwight once he puts his roots down and says this is the place I want to be.
“I think that’s part of the problem. I think the city feels they were renting him for a year … Of course, the way the season went didn’t help things either
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org