How Kobe Bryant’s Injury Will Impact Dwight Howard’s 2013 Free-Agent Decision

Kobe Bryant's torn Achilles tendon will reshape the Los Angeles Lakers' future in more ways than one, not the least of which will be the injury's impact on Dwight Howard's impending 2013 free-agent status.

L.A.'s center is in the final year of his deal, meaning he'll be free to test the market—a liberty he'll most certainly exercise—this summer.

A number of factors will be in play when Howard makes his decision on where to suit up next year, but Bryant's injury is now among the most significant.

In theory, the likelihood of Howard agreeing to return to Los Angeles should be tied directly to Bryant's prospective health. After all, one of the key concerns of any free agent is the talent (and the chances of winning) of the team he ends up joining.

But Bryant's future is riddled with uncertainty.

The 17-year veteran underwent surgery on April 13, and the Lakers have pegged his recovery time at anywhere from six to nine months:

Any number of things could affect Bryant's road back, but if all breaks right, there's a chance he'll return in time for the 2013-14 season at something approaching full strength:

It stands to reason that a healthy Bryant would serve as a strong enticement for Howard to stick around in L.A. But here's the thing: It's not all that clear that Howard would want to play with Bryant—healthy or not.

In a season marked by ill-fitting relationships on the court, Howard and Bryant's off-court struggles have cropped up repeatedly.

The two have clashed over everything from team chemistry to touches to alpha-dog roles.

Back in January, Howard spoke to Ramona Shelburne of ESPN about his relationship with Bryant:

(Chemistry is) something we have to do to get better. We have to play like we like each other. Even if we don't want to be friends off the court, whatever that may be, when we step in betwe...

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