Lakers free agent Dwight Howard will decide team July 10

Source: Jeff Gross/Getty Images North America

Source: Jeff Gross/Getty Images North America

Only three days remain until the official start of free agency. Los Angeles Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak has only one thing on his mind: Re-signing Dwight Howard.

According to ESPN Los Angeles, Kupchak said he is “optimistic” about Howard returning to the Lakers next season.

“I think I’m optimistic. I understand that there’s a possibility [Howard] won’t [re-sign], and I probably don’t have any more information than anybody in this room does. I’m aware of a lot of the stuff that’s flying back and forth, a lot of the rumors, so there’s a realistic possibility that he won’t be back. But I’m optimistic that he will.”

This comes a day after a report from ESPN’s Chris Broussard that said there was “very little chance” that Howard would return to the Lakers.

Howard has already been receiving backlash from fans, but Kupchak thinks that will change.

“Kobe’s been back for seven or eight years now. What did people think about him? There was a period where Kobe was earning his stripes in Los Angeles. I think when he came back, he had to continue. Here it is, seven, eight or nine years later, and I think that’s what would happen with Dwight once he puts his roots down and says, ‘This is the place I want to be.’

“I think that’s part of the problem. I think the city feels they were renting him for a year. But the reality is he couldn’t sign an extension. Financially, the rules provide that he wait until July 1 to get the best deal he could possibly get. It was one of those situations where please tell us you want to be here and please show us you want to be here. But he can’t do it until July 1. I think that’s part of it. Of course the way the season went didn’t help things either.” Kupchak said.

A source close to the All-Star center told that Howard expects to be ready to choose his team as soon as the NBA’s moratorium on new business is lifted July 10.

“It’s in everybody’s best interest, I think, to proceed in a timely fashion,” Kupchak said. “I don’t think it’s Dwight’s goal to drag it out.”