Despite reports to the contrary, Los Angeles Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak told ESPN Los Angeles that he is optimistic the Lakers will re-sign center Dwight Howard.
ESPN reported during the week that Howard is unlikely to re-sign with the team once he becomes a free agent on Monday. Free agents can begin officially signing contracts on July 10.
Howard reportedly plans to sign with a team on July 10 instead of extending the process. Kupchak read that as a good sign that Howard will return to the Lakers.
"It's in everybody's best interest, I think, to proceed in a timely fashion," Kupchak said. "I don't think it's Dwight's goal to drag it out. Whether he's with us or with another team, everybody this time of year has business to take care of. If he's here, he wants us to know that so we can build around him in this period of free agency, when it moves very quickly, and if he's with somebody else, that team is going to want the same thing."
The Atlanta Hawks, Dallas Mavericks and Houston Rockets are also reportedly interested in signing Howard, who had an off-year in his only season with the Lakers. He led the NBA in rebounding but struggled offensively while playing through a shoulder injury and coming off back surgery.
The Lakers can offer Howard a five-year deal while others can only offer four years. But Howard did not fit in well with coach Mike D'Antoni's offensive system, leading to speculation that Howard will not re-sign with Los Angeles. This has not deterred Kupchak.
"The word I've used is 'optimistic,' " Kupchak said. "I think I'm optimistic. I understand that there's a possibility (Howard) won't (re-sign), and I probably don't have any more information than anybody in this room does.
"I'm aware of a lot of the stuff that's flying back and forth, a lot of the rumors, so there's a realistic possibility that he won't be back. But I'm optimistic that he will."