Sports Out West

Dwight Howard free agency: Lakers prepare for worst, eye sign-and-trade

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As the Los Angeles Lakers become increasingly pessimistic of their prospects to re-sign Dwight Howard to a max deal and the possibility of losing him becomes more of a reality, the team is reportedly preparing for the worst, including opening up to the possibility of a sign-and-trade. 

According to ESPN.com, sources close to the big man told the Lakers that they could have fallen to fourth on Howard’s list of desired destinations. If that’s the case, the Lakers have to begin making arrangements for life without the mercurial center and weigh their options. One such course of action would be to acquire a player from one of several potential teams via a sign-and-trade. The prevailing thinking is that the Golden State Warriors are a likely candidate to deal with the Lakers in such a scenario. 

The Lakers’ pessimism stems from Howard’s constantly wavering thought process and his apparent displeasure with playing for head coach Mike D’Antoni or with Kobe Bryant

They’ll have to proceed with caution in any deal, because the Lakers are still eyeing 2014′s crop of free agents which could include LeBron James, John Wall, Carmelo Anthony, Rudy Gay, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Because of those players’ availability, Los Angeles wants to avoid taking on a large chunk of additional salary that will keep them from signing such players. 

One ideal scenario was one rumored to include a trade with the Los Angeles Clippers, where the Clips’ would have sent Eric Bledsoe and Blake Griffin to the Lakers for Howard, which would have been an intriguing swap for both teams. Howard and Paul have wanted to play together for a number of years, while players like Griffin and Bledsoe would help the aging Lakers in the youth and athleticism department. That ship has sailed, however, as Bledsoe is now a member of the Phoenix Suns after being included in a multi-team deal.

The Lakers are smart to look at all options, because losing Howard for nothing is a troubling prospect. The good news is that even if they do nothing, the cap space in 2014 will give them the freedom to build a strong team in the near future. 

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Michael C. Jones is the managing editor and founder of Sports Out West and a Southern California-based sports journalist. His work is also regularly featured on Yahoo! Sports and SB Nation. You can catch up with him on Twitter: @MikeJonesTweets.