Stretching the Field: There's nothing for Howard to mull over

Dwight Howard may or may not know who he wants to lace up the high tops with next season, but there are legitimate reasons why he should opt to stay with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Think back to when former NFL star Terrell Owens' publicist said this: "Terrell has 25 million reasons why he should be alive."

That is reason No. 1 why Howard belongs with the Lakers. The relationship Howard has with Owens, who was then clearing up an alleged suicide attempt, is that money talks. Zack Greinke admitted it when he signed a megadeal with Howard's neighbor, the Los Angeles Dodgers, in the offseason.

Howard is a free agent this summer and can sign with any team he deems worthy of his talents. His first and only alternative should be to stick with the Lakers because no other club has the power to offer him a bigger contract. The Lakers can hand him more than $100 million over a five-year period to keep the monster center around.

It's easy to decipher the money issue with Howard, but what else is so attractive that would keep the three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year in purple and gold?

Playing with future Hall of Famer Kobe Bryant this season had its ups and downs for Howard, who quarreled with the five-time NBA champion at times. Bryant possesses that killer instinct the likes of which have never been seen before and has one goal in mind: winning. It was up to Howard during the soap opera that was aptly termed "Dwightmare" that he was dealt to L.A. from Orlando, and Bryant's elite status cemented the opportunity to go west.

"He's at a crossroads in his career," Bryant said during his end-of-season presser. "I think Los Angeles is the perfect spot for him to assert himself and put his foot down and have his career really take off and be what it should be. There's no greater place for a center to play than Los Angeles."

Bryant's right. George Mikan, who played with the Lakers in Minneapolis, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O'Neal and Howard are some talented bigs. It's only destiny if Howard stays put and grabs a couple of titles before calling it quits, which, at times, looked as if it would come to fruition this season. Howard wants to have fun on the court and it wasn't all smiles until the Lakers started to click.

Like most humans, Howard seeks happiness. His toughness was even put into question this past season and that's something Howard was never used to from his days with the Orlando Magic, a team he put on his back en route to the 2009 NBA Finals. Howard is used to having the offense run through him, but playing alongside Bryant limits his touches. Howard, though, knew coming in that Bryant runs the show in Tinseltown.

Besides playing with Bryant, Howard can build on the relationship he started with fellow big man Pau Gasol, who could be on his way out of L.A.

Having Howard and Gasol on the floor gives the Lakers a modern version of the "The Twin Towers," which came to light in San Antonio with David Robinson and Tim Duncan. And what did they accomplish? Ummm, two NBA titles. Much like Bryant has been doing, Howard should start lobbying for Gasol's return.

"I was pretty clear: I want Pau here," Bryant said. "It's not even a question. It's not even a discussion. I think he gives us the best chance to win a title. You bring Dwight back, and we're off and running, but you also have to look at how well they started playing together. That puzzle finally got solved. We were all just clicking and rolling."

Los Angeles is a large market. It's large enough to hold Howard and all the intricacies of his personality. Howard said he will get away from the game to clear his head and decide what the future holds.

"I'll do what's going to be best for myself, what's going to make me happy," Howard said at his recent press conference. "I can't control who likes me, who dislikes me, but I have the right to be happy."

You're absolutely right, Dwight.

But wouldn't the chances of consistently competing in the playoffs and for your first NBA title make you happy, too? He will have that with the Lakers and playing with Bryant in his remaining years in the NBA. Rumors have been swirling that Bryant's days in L.A. could be over. Oh please, as if the Lakers would amnesty the fourth-highest scorer in NBA history. Bryant will be back and hopes Howard will be right beside him.

What else could Howard do if he chooses to go elsewhere? There's no doubt there will be some heavy suitors with cap space hoping to grab the services of the seven-time All-Star. Howard can only get a four-year deal worth around $90 million outside of Hollywood.

"I think he understands that the sooner he makes a decision, the better it is for everybody," Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said. "I don't know if that means a week, a month or seven weeks."

Kupchak is optimistic Howard will make a decision soon and return to the Lakers. History tells us that Howard could string the Lakers along, and that may take a hit on his pocket book and the chances of hoisting the prominent Larry O'Brien championship trophy.

As we all know, money talks, so Lakers fans better hope Howard is all ears.