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Lakers make their pitch to Dwight Howard; GM says team is hopeful he decides to stay

Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak, Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and other representatives of the team met Tuesday for two hours with free agent center Dwight Howard to make their pitch for keeping him in Los Angeles.

Kupchak says in a statement that at the meeting, "we told him how important he is to the Lakers team, franchise, fans and community."

Howard's free agency had been prominent in the Lakers' minds since their season ended in a first-round playoff sweep.

Howard, a seven-time All-Star, has vowed to make his decision in his own best interests, giving no indication he favored the Lakers over any other team.

The Lakers can offer a maximum of $118 million over five seasons, and other teams can offer $88 million over four years.