The most pressing question on Mitch Kupchak's mind these days has hardly produced much clarity.

Where will Dwight Howard play?

Even if he maintains he's "optimistic" Howard will continue donning the purple and gold, Kupchak, the Lakers' general manager, conceded he's anticipating the uncertainty that awaits at 9 p.m. Sunday.

For when the clock strikes midnight that day on the East Coast, that's when Howard will become an unrestricted free agent and can talk with any team he chooses. Those teams are expected to include the Lakers, Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks, Atlanta Hawks and Golden State Warriors. And possibly more.

The Lakers would like to be the last team Howard visits so they can put in the last word. But those close to Howard say that plan isn't definitive.

"We're anticipating July 1 will come and he'll experience being a free agent," Kupchak said recently. "That's really what he's earned."

The unsettling part for the Lakers is that Howard's decision influences how the Lakers handle this offseason.

"Absolutely," Kupchak said.