The Warriors surely realize Dwight Howard may be the NBA's biggest drama prince, basically wrecking the Orlando Magic and then putting the mighty Los Angeles Lakers in an unusually precarious position.

CEO Joe Lacob and his partners in persuasion -- general manager Bob Myers, coach Mark Jackson -- understand adding Howard to their team is a high-risk move, if only for the threat it poses to team chemistry, which is their foundational bedrock.

Yet they are absolutely right to maintain their pursuit of Howard.

When the NBA's free agency bazaar opened for business Sunday night, Howard was surrounded by executives who had spent months and maybe years fantasizing about acquiring the muscular 6-foot-11 center.

He met with representatives from the Lakers early Monday, then with the Rockets. The Warriors also were at his feet, with Dallas and Atlanta to come. Howard will be a member of one of these five teams.

The Warriors are underdogs. Lacob, Myers and Jackson know this, yet they were in Los Angeles hoping to persuade Howard to come to the Bay Area. Point guard Stephen Curry also is making a recruiting pitch in person and over the phone.

It's a serious stalking, and I understand the fascination.

I also can't ignore the massive, potentially crippling, risk.

Most of sport is based on risk, though, so it's unavoidable. The Warriors currently live with the risk of having Andrew Bogut at starting center and David Lee as their power forward. There is risk in projecting Harrison Barnes' ceiling or Klay Thompson's development or relying on Curry's delicate ankles.

Howard, however, is the kind of risk any ambitious team must take. He's 27 and has marvelous attributes, including interior defense, solid post presence and big-bodied athleticism. These gifts complement the Warriors' up-tempo style.

Howard is not the most skilled center in the league, but he may be the best.

Moreover, his name is worthy of the marquee. Howard, a seven-time All-Star with a high global recognition, immediately raises the franchise profile.

And everything we've seen and learned of Lacob tells us his No. 1 priority is to build a brand.

If Howard wishes to leave Los Angeles and the Warriors and Lakers could strike a workable sign-and-trade deal -- Bogut, Barnes or Thompson, and the expiring contracts of Richard Jefferson and Andris Biedrins are among rumored parts -- Golden State could unveil some very impressive billboards.

And if the Warriors manage to keep both Barnes and Thompson, as two sources insist, they have also stacked the team photo.

For this to work on the basketball court and in the locker room, though, Howard would have to prove there is more to him than meets the eye. He'd have to show he is fully invested in the team and committed to setting a positive example, elements missing during his final two seasons in Orlando and still questioned after he joined the Lakers last August.

Howard has exhibited little aptitude for leadership and, more troubling, has very much earned a reputation for requiring considerable maintenance.

He compiled gaudy numbers with the Magic but eventually undermined coach Stan Van Gundy and ultimately fractured the franchise. In Los Angeles, Howard clashed with coach Mike D'Antoni and struggled to establish compatibility with Kobe Bryant, the team's unquestioned leader.

The Warriors don't take the court with an unquestioned leader. It's not the veteran Lee, who is available for the right trade. It's not veteran Jarrett Jack, who has some of the qualities but may not re-sign. Curry is the closest thing on the roster to a franchise player.

The team leader is Jackson, whose work over his first two seasons affirms this.

Jackson would have to make Howard his chief ally and lieutenant, and conceivably could. The coach reads people well, engages easily and is a natural captain. He's a minister, which should help him reach Howard, who professes to be a man of faith.

If Jackson and Howard could forge a harmonious and fruitful relationship, along the lines of Gregg Popovich and Tim Duncan in San Antonio, the Warriors would have a terrific nucleus for at least the next four years, the length of Curry's contract.

That's the biggest risk, and Jackson would embrace it. He surely believes that he can reach Howard, or anybody else. Lacob wants to give his coach that chance.

Odds are long. The Rockets have enlisted the help of Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler. Steve Nash and Jack Nicholson are assisting Kobe's sales push in Los Angeles. Atlanta is Howard's hometown. Mavericks owner Mark Cuban can make Dallas attractive.

But the Warriors are in the conversation. That alone is a small victory, even if they don't win this high-stakes game.

Contact Monte Poole at mpoole@bayareanewsgroup.com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/1montepoole.

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  • The Warriors make their pitch to Dwight Howard in Los Angeles. PAGE 3