Howard and Lakers, at last, move toward resolution

July, 2, 2013
7/02/13
8:15
AM PT
Shelburne By Ramona Shelburne
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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By dinnertime on Tuesday night it will finally, and fittingly, be on Dwight Howard. After three years of waiting, of wanting, of worrying about his future, Howard will finally be able to decide something and hopefully quickly move on into what comes next, wherever that may be.

Despite the best efforts of Howard and his representatives not to create a frenzy around his meetings with the Rockets, Hawks, Warriors, Mavericks and Lakers this week, this process has been every bit the circus as what LeBron James went through in 2010. It's just been drawn out over a longer period, rather than condensed into a wild two weeks and made-for-TV announcement special. It has certainly been just as damaging to his reputation.

And yet as the process comes to a close finally, there's a palpable sense amongst all involved that the immediate emotional reaction to whatever Howard decides will not be despair or elation, but rather relief.

That it's finally over. That both Howard and everyone involved can move on. And at long last, there is clarity -- one way or another -- of where everyone stands.

It is an enormous moment for the Lakers franchise, Howard and all the other teams involved, and perfunctory one.

Howard will either stay or go, and from there the Lakers will either rejoice or regroup.

On one level it feels enormous -- like a referendum on the Lakers franchise, the strength of its brand and the franchise's great history in the NBA.

But on another level it doesn't seem like all that big of a deal at all. If Howard elects to leave, it will sting for a little while, but five minutes later the Lakers will move on to their 2014 strategy.

It will be a much bigger deal in Houston or Dallas or wherever Howard may choose to play if he leaves, of course. A franchise-defining moment for either club, not to mention a chance for the rest of the NBA to bask in some Lakers misfortune.

But even for Howard, the stakes seem somehow both ridiculously high and not that big of a deal at all.

He'll either go or stay, but the biggest development, the most meaningful one anyway, will be that it will all finally be over and he can, in the words of one source intimately involved in the process, "get back to focusing on becoming a champion."

The long Dwightmare, the process everyone involved in simply can't wait to be finished with, will be over soon. All that strutting and fretting upon the stage will just be another long NBA tale, signifying everything -- or nothing -- in the end.

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Kobe Bryant
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OTHER LEADERS
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