LOS ANGELES (CBS) – The Los Angeles Lakers have closed an off-season deal, acquiring Dwight Howard from the Orlando Magic in exchange for center Andrew Bynum.
The deal was finalized Friday morning and the Lakers introduced him formally at the Lakers training facility that night.
“I’m so excited to be a Laker. It’s so hard to even talk and I couldn’t sleep last night,” said Howard at the Lakers press conference. “I tried to stay away from ESPN, but as soon as I turned it on, it said breaking news: I was traded! So I thanked God that it’s over.”
Along with Howard, the Lakers will also receive guard Chris Duhon and forward Earl Clark from Orlando and the Magic also traded guard Jason Richardson to Philadelphia, according to the Associated Press.
“I was so happy the Lakers organization made a move to help Kobe out. It’s a long time coming. He needs some help — he’s in the twilight of his career. Dwight Howard puts them over the edge in the Western Conference and allows them to compete with Oklahoma City. I think a title’s in our future,” said fan Marcus Sladek.
The Lakers will now open training camp with a projected starting lineup of Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Metta World Piece, Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard.
Fans told CBS2/KCAL9 that they were sad to see Bynum go but confident Howard is what the team needs to win another championship.
“He gives us, you know, pride again…like we could win again,” said Lakers fan Lavell Morris.
Lakers fans consistently referred to Bynum as a good center but said Howard would likely prove to be a great center.
Howard’s health is still in question as his doctor has yet to clear him, but he told CBS 2’s Jim Hill that he is getting healthier every day and can’t wait to be given the OK to play.
All eyes will be on Howard and Bryant, as their relationship has been described by some as “icy,” but Howard did call Kobe Bryant, who is in London preparing for his Gold Medal match against Spain, and in his Kobe impersonation, he said “Yo, yo, yo listen, LA is happy to have you. You are part of the team and we’re looking forward to getting this ring.”
Howard is happy have an opportunity for fresh start in L.A. and to begin his own history with a new organization.
“You wake up every day and you hear people say things about you and it’s tough to stay focused on what you have to stay focused on,” said Howard on all his off-season drama. “So, instead of me going back and forth or coming out making statements on this and that, I just want to focus on getting healthy and coming back stronger. I think that’s better than things I can’t control.”
Jeanie Buss, executive vice president of operations for the Lakers, said she couldn’t be happier with the trade.
Buss said of her father and owner Dr. Jerry Buss, “That’s the way Dr. Buss has always done things. Not only is he the winningest owner, but he always does it with a flare. And this is certainly that kind of move. Dwight Howard is not only an All-Star, but his personality is larger than life, and I’m asking Lakers fans to help us to welcome him to Los Angeles to make sure he doesn’t want to leave.”
Pau Gasol, who has played with Bynum since 2008, tweeted about his friend and the future of the Lakers, “I want to wish the very best to my friend Andrew with his new team. On the other hand, truly excited about how great our team is! #GoLakers”
I want to wish the very best to my friend Andrew with his new team. On the other hand, truly excited about how great our team is! #GoLakers— Pau Gasol (@paugasol) August 10, 2012
Bynum, 24, has spent his seven-year career with the Lakers, after being selected 10th overall in the 2005 NBA draft.
He appeared in his first All-Star game this past season, averaging a career high of 35 minutes per game and scoring just under 19 points per game.
Bynum has some durability concerns, having only played 60+ regular season games three times in his career.