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Lakers unveil 'Stay' billboards urging Dwight Howard to re-sign in free agency

(@Lakers) The Lakers have erected a billboard at the Staples Center urging Dwight Howard to re-sign as a free agent. (@Lakers)

Charming or desperate? That's always a fine line when it comes to courtship.

The Lakers began placing billboards around Los Angeles urging center Dwight Howard to re-sign when he becomes an unrestricted free agent next month. The billboards feature photographs of Howard alongside the word "STAY" and a corresponding "#STAYD12" hashtag.

Howard, 27, averaged 17.1 points, 12.4 rebounds and 2.4 blocks in his only season with the Lakers after being acquired from the Magic in a four-team blockbuster trade last summer. The seven-time All-Star told reporters after the Lakers were swept by the Spurs in the first round of the playoffs that he planned to "step away" before considering his free agency options.

"I’m going to step away from everything for a couple weeks and clear my head before I do or talk about anything, as far as next season," Howard said in April. "I think I deserve that. That’s what I’m going to do."

Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak told Lakers.com this week that he believes Howard is a Hall of Famer.

"He's our future," Kupchak said.

The Lakers uploaded photos of the billboards to Twitter on Wednesday. ESPNLA.com reports that there will be "six or seven" billboards in total; photos show the billboards are already up at the Staples Center and on Hollywood Boulevard.

(@Lakers) A Dwight Howard billboard on Hollywood Boulevard. (@Lakers)

The Orange County Register asked a Lakers spokesman for a comment on the billboard strategy.

"[Howard] is very important to both our present and future," the spokesman replied.

Howard can re-sign with the Lakers for up to five years or he can sign with outside suitors for up to four years.

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