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Lakers GM: 'Hopeful and optimistic' that Dwight Howard returns

Dwight Howard Lakers center Dwight Howard said he hasn't made a decision about returning to the team. (Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images)

Los Angeles Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said Tuesday that he hopes center Dwight Howard re-signs with the team after a difficult season and a first-round sweep by the hands of the San Antonio Spurs.

Howard was ejected in the Lakers 103-82 loss to the Spurs Sunday night and gave no indication about whether he will return to the team next season. Howard said he wanted to get away from everything and focus on himself so he can make the right decision about his future.  Howard averaged 17.1 points and 12.4 rebounds in his first season with the team.

Kupchak said he was "hopeful" and "optimistic" that Howard will be back with the Lakers next season and beyond.

From ESPN.com:

"For me, I'm going to do what's best for myself, what's going to make me happy," Howard said. "At the end of the day, I can't control who likes me and who dislikes me but I have the right to be happy. That's what I'm going to do. That's the biggest thing right there."

"I know in my heart that this is a place where I think he should be," Kupchak said, according to ESPN.com. "We have a great legacy, great history of great players in this city dating back to when the franchise came here in 1960 and he certainly fits the mold."

Howard becomes a free agent on July 1 and he can sign an maximum level extension worth $118 million over five years if he stays with the Lakers. If he leaves, the most he could get is $87.6 million over four seasons.
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