Los Angeles Lakers: What if the Billboards Aren’t About Dwight?

Like any self-respecting Lakers fan, I am intensely following the free agency drama of Dwight Howard's decision whether to remain with the Lakers. Which of course means I know all about the "STAY" billboards. My immediate reaction was: I don't like them. Why should the Lakers, the LAKERS!, have to publicly beg him to stay? It felt a little desperate. And like a rare misstep for a franchise which almost always strikes the right tone in its media and player dealings. What, the chance to eventually take over the reins of a world renowned franchise with 16 titles already and every intention of seeking more isn't good enough for you, Dwight?  

That's not how the Lakers roll. Free agents come to them. Not the other way around.  

I know the Lakers passed it off as "Well, we want to be sure D12 knows that he is really wanted here," with the subtext of, yes, we know he likes the adoration and attention. But it still felt a little unseemly. 

But maybe the real intended audience was not Howard, but the brass at Time Warner Cable. If you don't know, TWC just gave the Lakers a $3 billion television contract. The Lakers are in the first year of it. You can't really appear cavalier and complacent in your pursuit of one of the hottest free agents in the NBA with that deal just under way. You've gotta make the suits believe you are really all in on recruiting him to stay. Right? Mega deals call for mega stars.

There is also the small matter of the Lakers finances. The Lakers are looking at a huge luxury tax burden. Three billion goes a long way against that, and a D12 potential max contract is chump change compared to it. But unless the Lakers get their financial house in order, the luxury tax and salary cap issues compound and become even more punitive and will eventually really hamstring the team. So it always made a lot of sense to look at 2013 as a "Let's get our affairs in order year." (You'll rarely hear t...

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