Lakers Campaign Dwight Howard To Stay In LA - KMSP-TV

Lakers Campaign Dwight Howard To Stay In LA

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Los Angeles, CA -

(FOX 11) "Stay." It's the one, emphatic word the Lakers put on billboards to let everyone know how much they value their soon-to-be free agent Dwight Howard.

"The reason we're doing it is to clearly send a message to Dwight that he is the most important and top priority to this organization right now," said John Black, the vice president of public relations for the team.

As of Wednesday, there was one billboard on the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Las Palmas Avenue and another hanging off the side of Staples Center downtown.

Black said more billboards are on the way and the team has also purchased ad space in local papers to increase their intensity in wooing Howard who becomes a free agent on July 1st.

Critics of the billboards say one of the world's most recognizable franchises shouldn't have to extend such graces but team said they are only letting Howard know how important he is to the Lakers.

But the ad campaign, which is already more extravagant than the efforts laid out to retain both Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal, is seemingly an admission that the Lakers are in an unfamiliar position of having to fend off other teams.

"Sure it's a concern," Black said.  ""We've never had a situation like this before with a free agent.  Clearly we realize what the situation is and what the implications are."

While the Lakers can offer the athletic big man approximately $30 million in guaranteed money, many basketball insiders theorized that Howard chafed at playing a secondary role to Kobe Bryant this past season.

If Howard turns down the extra money to stay in Los Angeles, Houston is reportedly a leading candidate not only because of their young, talented roster but also because the lack of a state income tax would lessen the financial blow to Howard.

The ad campaign also features a social media component with the team hoping fans will use the hash tag, #StayD12, to send positive messages to Howard.

"Not only do we the Lakers want to tell Dwight how important he is to us, we're hoping our fans will reach out and let him know how important he is to them as well," Black said.

While the billboards are the loud, public proclamations, Black said most of the work is being done behind the scenes with the team hopeful and confident that they will be able to retain the services of one of the best centers in the game.

"We've been meeting with him, Mitch has been meeting with him and his agent regularly for the past several weeks," Black said.  "But in addition to that, as Kobe said, we do hope to be the last to talk to him as well."

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