The Lakers and their fans were waiting for a decision ever since Howard became a free agent at the end of the season. General manager Mitch Kupchak was very sure that Howard would be back as a Laker. How the tides have changed ever since. Multiple teams were also in the hunt for Howard. Namely the Rockets, Mavs, Warriors, Hawks and Lakers of course. The media had picked Houston as the favorites early on, until the Warriors made a serious run towards the end. Around 3PM PST today, there were many reports that Howard was indeed going to sign with Houston. A couple of hours later, it was reported that Howard was flying back to Los Angeles to meet with Kupchak and the Lakers. Some had thought there was a slim chance Howard might have changed his mind. As it turns out, it was only to let Kupchak and the Lakers know that he was not going to return to LA.
With Howard leaving, the Lakers are now left with Gasol to be a rim protector. The Lakers also have to build a better bench, which was one of the worst in the league last season. What does Howard leaving mean to the Lakers? It means that they are somewhat on rebuilding mode. At least just for this upcoming season. In 2014, the Lakers will have a lot of cap space to sign one or possibly two big free agents. Houston will be in contention in the West now with Howard. The Lakers will have to figure out what to do this upcoming season and beyond. Not all is lost with the Lakers. They always find a way to get back into the elite in the league. Howard is the only big superstar to leave a historic franchise like the Lakers.