Sources: Lakers Won’t Agree to Dwight Howard Sign and Trade

130427160849-dwight-howard-los-angeles-lakers-offseason-roundtable-single-image-cutSo what if Dwight Howard leaves? Here’s one thing you won’t see: the Lakers helping him find his dream team, or trying to salvage something for him, with a sign-and-trade.

Barring a bonanza they don’t expect to be offered, insiders say the Lakers’ fallback position would be to bring back this team and bank the savings—almost $50 million in salary and luxury tax.

They would then drop under the luxury tax threshold after next season–a Laker priority after paying the tax for as long as there has been one, with new, ever-escalating repeater penalties. In the key, it would give them $55 million worth of cap space for the 2014 free agent class, which could include LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony.

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The Rockets, thought to be the Lakers’ leading challenger for Howard’s hand, could open up a maximum $20.5 million slot.

However, the Rockets’s dream of a bigger haul—Howard and the Clippers’ Chris Paul—would depend on their ability to off-load $16.8 million in salary gue Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik. The Lakers, however, have no intention of taking Lin and Asik, or any two Rockets with the possible exception of James Harden and whomever. Knowing they had to rebuilt in the face of a financial doomsday, the Lakers acquired Howard, knowing they would have to pay him $23 million per, if they could get him to take it, because of his unique value.

If they lose him, the Lakers would only pay that much for someone else they think has unique value. Coming off back surgery in a bumpy transition that isn’t over, Howard’s value wasn’t all the Lakers hoped for.

Of course, there’s always next season, wherever he is.

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