Mitch Kupchak clear he wants Dwight Howard to stay

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — In words and deeds, the Los Angeles Lakers are making it clear how they feel about Dwight Howard.

The Lakers took the unusual step earlier this week of putting up billboards around the L.A. area with a large photo of the center and the word “Stay.” General manager Mitch Kupchak also addressed his feelings late Thursday night after the NBA draft.

“The message is simple: we care about you and we want you to stay,” Kupchak said.

Howard’s impending free agency has been prominent in the Lakers’ minds since their season ended in a first-round playoff sweep.

Howard, a seven-time All-Star, has vowed to make his decision in his own best interests, giving no indication he favored the Lakers over any other team. The free agency period begins at 11:01 p.m. CDT Sunday.

Allen returning to Heat

MIAMI — Ray Allen is returning to the Miami Heat next season.

Allen exercised his $3.2 million player option Friday, barely a week after the Heat finished off the San Antonio Spurs to win the NBA Finals in seven games. Allen made one of the biggest shots in Heat history, a 3-pointer with 5.2 seconds left in Game 6 of the finals to tie the game and force an overtime where Miami ultimately prevailed.

Allen turns 38 next month, yet still played in 102 games during the regular season and playoffs for Miami. That was the most appearances by any player in the league this past season.

Allen averaged 10.9 points in the regular season, and 10.2 points in the playoffs for the Heat.

Frank returns to Nets

NEW YORK — Former Nets coach Lawrence Frank will return to the team as an assistant under new coach Jason Kidd.

The Nets said Friday they also agreed to terms with assistants Roy Rogers, Eric Hughes and holdover Doug Overton to fill out the staff of their rookie coach.

Frank is the Nets’ career leader in victories, going 225-241 in parts of seven seasons, when Kidd was his point guard. He returns to the franchise after spending two seasons as the Detroit Pistons’ coach, going 54-94.

Rogers worked under him in New Jersey and Detroit, while Hughes spent the last six seasons in Toronto. Overton will be entering his sixth season with the Nets, including fourth as an assistant coach.

The Nets hired Kidd shortly after he retired following a 19-year playing career.