With just three days remaining until the official start to NBA free agency, Los Angeles Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak has one major thing on his mind: trying to convince Dwight Howard to re-sign.

"I think the word I've used is 'optimistic,'" Kupchak said Thursday night after emerging from the Lakers' war room following the NBA draft. "I think I'm optimistic. I understand that there's a possibility (Howard) won't (re-sign), and I probably don't have any more information than anybody in this room does. I'm aware of a lot of the stuff that's flying back and forth, a lot of the rumors, so there's a realistic possibility that he won't be back. But I'm optimistic that he will."

Kupchak was referring to a report by ESPN the Magazine's Chris Broussard that there is "very little chance" the All-Star center will return to the Lakers. Regardless, Kupchak is undeterred and compared Howard's situation to what Kobe Bryant went through as a free agent in the summer of 2004. Bryant came awfully close to joining the Los Angeles Clippers and also considered the Chicago Bulls, but ultimately decided to stay with the purple and gold.

"Very similar. Scary close," Kupchak said. "Kobe visited with teams -- more than one team, there were several. I remember we were on pins and needles. We'd just gotten beaten and Phil [Jackson] left for the first time and we traded Shaquille [O'Neal] and there was a lot of uncertainty about what Kobe would do; a lot of rumor. Very similar to what's going on right now. When the phone call (with Bryant's decision) came in, we really didn't know which way it was going to go. I would say it's very similar."

What isn't similar is the team's approach to wooing Bryant. There were no billboards put up around Hollywood asking Bryant to stay, like the team is doing for Howard.

"It's a sign of the future landscape," Kupchak said. "I think in the NBA with the new collective bargaining agreement, with the intent being to level the playing field as much as possible, I think you'll see the way teams recruit and try to procure talent to change. I think you have to be aggressive. You can't take chances that you're not doing enough, and from our point of view, we wanted to be as aggressive and as proactive as possible. Yet, do it with what we feel was the right way without going overboard. The message is simple: We care about you and we want you to stay. It's that simple."