Originally posted on NESN.com  |  Last updated 6/26/13
The Los Angeles Lakers are desperate and they aren’t being coy about it. The team unveiled a massive banner on the side of Staples Center on Wednesday asking center Dwight Howard to stay put in LA. The seven-time NBA All-Star is arguably the most coveted free-agent this summer after one frustrating season with the Purple and Gold. But despite Howard’s difficult 2012-2013 campaign, general manager Mitch Kupchak has made it clear that Howard is “our future,”  and the team is doing whatever it takes to re-sign the 27-year-old. The Figueroa St. banner is one of six or seven billboards that will be strategically placed throughout Los Angeles in attempt to convince Howard to make Staples Center his long-term home. The sign includes the hashtag “STAYD12,” hoping that the message will spread through social media, according to team spokesman John Black. Howard will be able to begin to talk with potential suitors on July 1, when the NBA free-agency period officially begins at midnight ET. The Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks and Atlanta Hawks all have expressed interest in signing the three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year. But the Lakers might be the favorites heading in to the free-agency period, as they can offer him the most lucrative contract. If Howard were to re-sign with the Lakers, he could ink a five-year deal worth up to $118 million. The best deal he can receive from any other team would be a four-year, $87.6 million contract. With Kobe Bryant‘s career coming to an inevitable end in the near future, the Lakers are hoping they can keep D12 as their Hollywood superstar for the long term. Anyone driven down Figueroa by @STAPLESCenter today? #STAYD12 http://t.co/pC0aZbg28d— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) June 26, 2013

This article first appeared on NESN.com and was syndicated with permission.

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