Dwight Howard headed to Los Angeles to join Lakers

The Indecision has ended.

After months of indecisiveness on the part of Dwight Howard and futile trade talks, the superstar center has finally been granted his wish for a trade out of Orlando and is headed to Los Angeles to join the Lakers as part of a four-team trade Thursday.

As part of the deal, the Denver Nuggets will acquire U.S. Olympian Andre Iguodala from the Philadelphia 76ers, the 76ers will receive Andrew Bynum and Jason Richardson (formerly of the Lakers and Magic, respectively), and the Orlando Magic will receive Aaron Afflalo, Al Harrington, Nikola Vucevic, and 76ers first round pick Moe Harkless along with a protected first round draft pick from each of the three teams.

The deal is expected to become official after approval from the league office Friday – unless commissioner David Stern chooses to step in and veto the whole deal, that is.

As for Andrew Bynum, the Sixers were willing to go ahead with the deal without a guarantee the 2011 All-Star center will sign an extension with the team. Bynum had previously stated he would not sign a long-term deal with any team other than the Lakers, instead planning to explore his options in free agency.

“The Sixers are willing to take a shot (without Bynum’s commitment),” a source said.

Regardless, the Lakers have finally gotten their man. After an offseason in which they slipped in and out out of the Dwight Howard sweepstakes on the public front while all the way quietly staying in to acquire the best big man in the game today, the Lakers finally landed the deal they wanted for the price of what essentially becomes a swap for Bynum. Pau Gasol had floated in and out of trade talks throughout the day, with an initial deal involving him landing
in Orlando while the Lakers ended up with Al Harrington to go along with Howard.

As for Howard, the indecisiveness carries on as it pertains to his long-term commitment to the Lakers. According to sources, the six-time NBA All-Star will not sign an extension to stay in L.A. and will opt to become a free agent at the conclusion of the upcoming season, in which case the Brooklyn Nets and Dallas Mavericks can once again emerge as contenders to obtain Howard for the long-term.

“If Los Angeles doesn’t work out for Dwight, Dallas will be there waiting for him,” an NBA source told ESPN’s Marc Stein.

That will hardly be a concern for Laker fans, who will undoubtedly like their chances of wooing the reigning three-time Defensive Player of the Year for the long-haul. Certainly with the case being that Howard is heading to the bright lights and star-filled city of Hollywood to play alongside Kobe Bryant, Gasol, and new Lakers point guard Steve Nash to compete for a championship.

Bryant, currently in London as part of the U.S. Olympic basketball team, was reportedly ecstatic at the news of the deal while still retaining Gasol.

Howard now joins the ranks of George Mikan, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Shaquille O’Neal as one of the greatest centers to play for the purple and gold. While he had previously reiterated his desire to play for a team where he could build his own legacy so as to not have to live up to the standards and expectations of the greats before him, Howard will have his chance to become the alpha dog in the second biggest market in the NBA.

“He’s ecstatic … just incredibly happy to be moving on to the Lakers, moving out of Orlando,” ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith reported regarding a conversation with Howard. “One of the things he told me, ‘I can assure you I’m happy to be here,’”

He sure has a multitude of reasons to be happy. After being the subject of impatience and aggravation of the basketball world the past few months, he can now put all that to rest. The nightmare is finally over. For Howard, the bright lights of L.A. beckon. There will certainly be sweet dreams in Lakerland tonight.

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