This file photo shows Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard during a news conference, with his three NBA defensive player of the year awards, after he was presented with the 2010-11 award in Orlando, Florida, April 18, 2011. — AP
LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Lakers bolstered their championship credentials Friday by landing six-time All-Star Dwight Howard from the Orlando Magic as part of a blockbuster 12-player trade including the Denver Nuggets and Philadelphia 76ers.
The deal thrusts the Lakers back into the mix of contenders for an NBA title as Howard, the face of the Magic franchise and a three-time defensive player of the year, joins Kobe Bryant, Spain’s Pau Gasol and Steve Nash in Los Angeles.
“Well, it looks like Superman has found a home,” Bryant wrote on his Facebook page, referring to the moniker his new teammate earned because of the red cape he wore during the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) 2008 Slam Dunk contest.
Howard’s move to Los Angeles concludes a drawn-out process during which the Magic’s top scorer and rebounder for each of the last six seasons went back and forth over his decision on whether to stay with the team. The 26-year-old center, taken first overall by Orlando in the 2004 NBA Draft, had requested a trade before the 2011-12 season but then said in March he would stick with the Magic rather than test free agency.
But last month, he reiterated his desire to be traded and said if a move was not made, he would leave the team when his current contract expires at the end of next season.
The attention on his playing future was the most directed at any prospective free agent since three-time NBA most valuable player (MVP) LeBron James went on national television to announce his much-publicized move to Miami in 2010.
Orlando gets guard Arron Affalo and forward Al Harrington from the Nuggets, forward Maurice Harkless and center Nikola Vucevic from the 76ers and forward Josh McRoberts and guard Christian Eyenga from the Lakers.
The Magic, who sent guard Jason Richardson to the 76ers, will also receive five draft picks, including three first-rounders, over the next five years.
The departure of Howard comes nearly three months after the Magic fired head coach Stan van Gundy and mutually parted ways with General Manager Otis Smith.
In addition to Howard, the Lakers get guard Chris Duhon and forward Earl Clark from Orlando.
It is the second offseason splash made by a Lakers team that has suffered two straight early playoff exits since capturing a 16th NBA title in 2010.
The team added two-time NBA MVP Nash last month in a deal with the Phoenix Suns.
Philadelphia get twice NBA champion center Andrew Bynum from the Lakers and Denver lands forward Andre Iguodala from the 76ers, who posted a “Thank You, Andre” message on their website with a photo of their former player soaring to the rim. — Reuters