Lakers buy billboards for Dwight Howard, and he still might leave

The Lakers are going all out to get Dwight Howard to stay in Los Angeles this summer. With less than one week before free agents can begin talking with teams and agreeing to contracts, the Lakers have put out the full-court press.

Or at least they are putting up some sign they love their beleaguered big man.

The Lakers have put up a billboard on the side of the Staples Center with the simple directive: "Stay." along with the hashtag #StayD12. The billboard will also be going up on various billboards around Los Angeles, including along Hollywood Boulevard. Consider it part of the free agency full-court press.

When healthy, Dwight Howard is by far the best center in the league and a guy that a team can be built around. He changes the game defensively. Even last year, while fighting back and shoulder injuries, Howard averaged 17.1 points per game and a league-best 12.4 rebounds per game. It is only his attitude that seems to be a question mark for him.

That will not keep several teams from pursuing him, including the Lakers, Rockets and Mavericks. That race already seems to be heating up with a report that came out Thursday.

Chris Broussard of reports, citing unnamed sources, that there is "very little chance" Dwight Howard re-signs with the Lakers. Dallas and Houston appear to have pulled ahead in the early race to sign the free agent center. Broussard reports Howard also plans to meet with Atlanta.

Why have the Lakers fallen so far behind? Broussard's source claims it is because of a dispute with the Lakers' new playing style and coach Mike D'Antoni. There is also continuing reports that Howard did not enjoy playing with Kobe Bryant.

Howard, it seems, has not outgrown his desire to be "the man" and the center of attention on the team. He wants to go somewhere he can help form the team around him, it seems. He cannot do that with the investment the Lakers have made in D'Antoni and Bryant's presence.

Then again, Dwight Howard's free agency has rarely been about what is best for him on the basketball court. The saga is almost over… I think.

About Philip Rossman-Reich

Philip Rossman-Reich is the managing editor for Crossover Chronicles and Orlando Magic Daily. You can follow him on twitter @OMagicDaily