Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak Met With Dwight Howard Prior to Rockets

by July 01, 2013

All along, the Los Angeles Lakers were expected to meet last with free agent center Dwight Howard. GM Mitch Kupchak surprised everyone by briefly meeting face-to-face twice with the superstar over the weekend, with the Houston Rockets racing to Los Angeles for their own pow wow with the big fella. Per the LA Times and USA Today: “The Lakers got the first word with new free agent Dwight Howard on Sunday, craftily sneaking in a brief meeting after free agency began at 9:01 p.m. As Houston Rockets executives and luminaries (Hakeem Olajuwon, Clyde Drexler) piled into a Mercedes-Benz van for dinner with Howard in Los Angeles, Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchakwent to see Howard for some face time with the NBA’s top free agent. Point, Lakers. They’ll also get the last word Tuesday, meeting with Howard in a final effort to pitch their importance to the player they employed last season … and hope to pay for five more years and $118 million.” […] Even though the Houston Rockets were given the first formal meeting with Howard in Los Angeles near the start of free agency Sunday night, Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak made two unexpected connections with Howard leading up to his much-anticipated round of meetings. The first came on Saturday, as the two discussed Howard’s future and why he belongs in Laker Land one last time before Kupchak’s competition came to town. Then Kupchak made a surprise visit on Sunday night, a brief well-wishing that came just minutes after the 9:01 p.m. PT buzzer sounded and before Howard headed out for dinner and a presentation with the Rockets. […] The Lakers expect to have the last official word, as their meeting with Howard is scheduled to follow the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday after the Golden State Warriors and Atlanta Hawks meet with him on Monday. But this was the informal touch, these brief-but-potentially-pivotal moments in this scripted schedule that were only possible because of the advantage of incumbency. Officials from other teams would have been breaking league rules if they spoke with Howard on Saturday, and the idea of another general manager popping in at the Sunday time that was slated for another team is unlikely if it wasn’t Howard’s former boss as well. The Saturday meeting would have qualified as tampering for any of the suitors from Houston, Dallas, Atlanta and Golden State, and the one that preceded the Rockets’ meeting on Sunday night sent yet another strong message to the coveted big man that they would fight just as hard to keep him as the rest of the lot would to take him away. It made for a curious start to this process, as Houston had been expected to meet with Howard right when the free agency buzzer sounded. Instead, Rockets general manager Daryl Morey was tweeting about the meeting that was, it seemed, unexpectedly delayed.”