Marc Stein: As for Dwight Howard, don't forget that it'…

More on Dwight Howard Free Agency

The Rockets have not ruled out trying to keep Howard, but that would be part of a larger plan and would depend greatly on their choice of coach. The Rockets' top priority would be to join the pursuit of Thunder star Kevin Durant. Oklahoma City's success and the Rockets' issues could complicate that because the Rockets likely seek a key signing to help entice Durant, the prize of the summer.
When the subject of his future came up Wednesday, Howard declined one inquiry and later dismissed another by turning away in silence. Harden offered a tepid endorsement to bringing back a player whose star has diminished greatly because of injuries to his back and knees. “I mean, ultimately it’s his decision, but you know, obviously, we love big fella here,” Harden said. “And you know, I guess he’ll go back with his family and he’ll figure it out.”
The Rockets will have a comprehensive list of coaches to view whenever the season ends. Bickerstaff, who remains in good standing with management, will be part of that conversation. Alexander and Morey believe that Harden will play a role in helping to hire a coach and potentially sign free agents. Howard is not expected to have a role. It's expected that he will become a free agent and seek a new team. Orlando, Milwaukee, Portland and Charlotte are the favorites.
Howard is frustrated because he believes Harden doesn't respect him enough. Howard texts former teammates asking what can be done to solve the problems. That same poor dynamic between Harden and Howard, and the inconsistent play of others has hurt Bickerstaff, who took over 11 games into the season when Alexander fired McHale. "The team was not responding to Kevin," Morey said at the time of the firing. "There is no time in the West."
It's expected that he will become a free agent and seek a new team. Orlando, Milwaukee, Portland and Charlotte are the favorites.
Parsons will opt out of his Mavericks contract to be a free agent, an option Howard has with the Rockets. Parsons said if he signs with Dallas, he would recruit Howard, as he did when Howard signed with the Rockets in 2014. "Is he a prophet?" Howard said of Parsons' prediction that Howard will leave Houston. "Our focus is on this basketball game. It doesn't matter what anybody on the outside says. We are friends. We're close. None of that stuff matters right now. This is about this team right here, what we're trying to accomplish. Who cares what anybody else says?
"I don't pay attention to it. My job is to focus on being great tomorrow and helping this team win, no matter what anybody else has to say. Chandler and I are close friends. It's not about what he thinks or he wants right now. It's about this team, what we're trying to accomplish."
Stephen A. Smith thinks Dwight Howard is on his way out in Houston. He also believes that Howard’s Rockets teammates are sending him the message that they don’t want him around anymore. As evidence he points to the fact that Howard hasn’t hit double digits in field goal attempts in 13 games. To Stephen A. that proves his teammates don’t care to get the big man the ball.
Sources says the Mavericks' interest in Dwight Howard as a free agent this summer will be dependent on the price. The Mavs do not intend to be in on the bidding for Howard if it's in the neighborhood of a max contract, which would have a starting salary of more than $30 million. The Mavs made Howard their primary target and offered a max contract in 2013, when the center signed with the Rockets. However, concerns about the 30-year-old Howard's durability and desire have caused the Mavs to decide that he isn't worth a nine-figure investment over four years at this point.
Dwight is also expected to hit the market this summer after opting out of his contract. Do you anticipate that there will be discussions between you two about hooking back up, whether that's in Dallas or somewhere else? Parsons: Yeah. We have ongoing talks and text messages still to this day. He's one of my good friends. It's cool that we could have the opportunity to go into free agency this summer together. I've expressed how I think he can be one of the dominant players in this league. I think he still has a lot left in the tank. He gets criticized a lot for whatever reason, but I still think he can be one of the best big men in the league and a game-changer. He's not that old [Howard is 30]. He still has a lot left in the tank.
Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard can opt out of his contract this summer and become a free agent, and Shaquille O'Neal believes it would be in his best interest to return to the Orlando Magic. “I think it would be good for the city,” O’Neal, a 15-time All-Star and one of the newest members of the Basketball Hall of Fame, said Monday per ESPN. “First of all, after the first time he left, letting a big young guy get away, it shouldn’t happen a second time. All the puzzle [pieces] have to fit.”
Howard, who is expected to become a free agent this summer, still wants to win and be paid like a superstar. He fired longtime agent Dan Fegan and hired Perry Rogers, whom he was attracted to because he'll be Rogers' only basketball client. Howard hopes to sign a max contract with a projected average salary of $30 million per season.
Ric Bucher: League sources tell me that the Magic have heard through backchannels that Howard would entertain a return to the Magic kingdom. Make no mistake: His first option would be to remain with the Rockets, but if Houston is not on board with that Howard is exploring his options and Orlando is on the list.
Here's another thing about the dynamic of such a bizarre reunion: Howard recently fired the agent who brokered his soap-opera exit from Orlando. Dan Fegan is public enemy No. 1 with the front office. It got nasty as Fegan tried bullying the Magic into meeting Dwight's trade demands. The fact that Fegan doesn't represent him anymore removes that contentious cloud in any summer talks between Howard and Orlando.
During the Rockets' visit to Milwaukee on Monday night, Bucks announcer Gus Johnson recounted a conversation with Howard in which they talked about him heading to Milwaukee at the deadline. According to Johnson, Howard didn't want to opt in (confirming deadline reports) but did say he likes Milwaukee and insinuated he may have re-signed there.
Question: What is the likelihood the Mavs sign Dwight Howard, Al Horford or Hassan Whiteside in the off-season? Eddie Sefko: I can assure you it won't be Dwight Howard. Hassan Whiteside has off-court issues, according to many people. Al Horford is a personal favorite for a long time. I'd love to see him as a Maverick. I think he would fit great with Dirk and Parsons. But then again, how many Gators can you have on one team?
Howard said he has not targeted another agent and is not weighing his free agent options. "Right now my focus is on us winning and trying to get to the playoffs and win a championship," Howard said. "All the other stuff, it's not a factor now."
Morey said he was "never close" to agreeing to a deal. Multiple front office executives around the league, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the private nature of trade talks, said there was little chance Howard would be dealt despite widespread conversations, citing Morey's asking price and Howard's coming free agency.
The gap between what the Rockets wanted and what teams offered for Howard was considerable, for two reasons: Howard, 30, can be a free agent at the end of the season, and he will likely seek a contract worth north of $20 million per year. Howard has been healthy for most of this season, yet concerns about a once-debilitating back injury linger. And while executives admit Howard is better than the pedestrian scorer (14.6 points per game) he has morphed into alongside James Harden, you are hard-pressed to find many willing to mortgage the future of the franchise to go get him.
Houston would like nothing more than to move forward with Howard and Harden as cornerstones, to use the pair to lure a marquee free agent like Durant, to assemble an All-Star team that can compete with the one blitzing the league in Golden State. But the Rockets understand: The relationship between Howard and Harden has become increasingly unsalvageable. Howard has never whispered a word about wanting out of Houston, about any disdain for Harden, but the lack of on-court chemistry between the two is obvious. Howard still craves a bigger role, and it's hard to see that materializing in Houston.
"Many teams called expressing great interest in trading for Dwight. The obvious stumbling block to a trade was how could a team justify giving up important assets for a player who was about to become a free agent in a few short months? Not surprisingly, as the deadline approached, several teams called stating they had worked out the trade parameters with Houston for a Dwight deal but were not prepared to give up their assets unless Dwight agreed to opt into the last year of his contract and forego free agency. Dwight declined," Howard's agent, Dan Fegan, told ESPN.com on Thursday night.
Another stumbling block to making a deal is Howard's pending free agency. He has a $23.3 million player option for next season, something he most likely won't use, allowing him to become an unrestricted free agent. Howard is expected to seek a max contract that could give him an average salary of $30 million per season. A potential new team might just rent Howard for this season and not commit to him long term.
Jonathan Feigen: I'm told people took the Dwight comment that he intends to be with Rockets for rest of season to mean only this season. Didn't say that. We did not talk about next season. We talked about the trade deadline which is tomorrow.
Bobby Marks: Teams can back channel for info on whether a FA would sign long term if traded for. Teams cannot contact the player with out own team permission.
Rajin Parmar: If Dwight Howard doesnt sign with Houston this summer, where does he end up? - Steve Kyler: Dwight Howard has also had a long love affair with Brooklyn... If they opt to trade away Brook Lopez for assets, possible.
The landscape, though, could be rougher than Howard thinks. Asked by The Vertical if Howard would be a max or near-max player this summer, three league executives had the same response: no. “Three-years, $60 million,” an Eastern Conference general manager said. “I’m not going any higher than that.” Added a team personnel scout: “I don’t know that I’d make a serious offer. That back is always going to scare me.”
Another team that has long been tied to Howard, the Dallas Mavericks, is known to have no interest in giving Howard a max-salary deal. That could always change, of course, but it’s noteworthy considering the lay of the land: the Mavericks have a center in Zaza Pachulia who will be an unrestricted free agent this summer, two other starters who can become free agents (small forward Chandler Parsons has a player option worth $16 million; point guard Deron Williams has a player option worth $5.6 million) and an unrestricted free agent in third-year forward Dwight Powell.
Parsons, it should be noted, played a significant role in the recruitment of Howard to Houston before his surprising exit in the summer of 2014 (he signed a three-year, $46 million deal as a restricted free agent that the Rockets chose not to match). And while the max money factor is clearly a concern for the Mavericks’ decision makers, Parsons told USA TODAY Sports recently that the friendship between him and Howard has been rekindled and he would welcome the chance to play with him again. “For sure,” Parsons said. “I’m talking to him (routinely), obviously, and we share the same agent with Dan Fegan … Obviously I have a really close relationship with Dwight and one year wasn’t enough playing with him in Houston. I was a big reason why he went there, so I’ll have to revisit that when the time is appropriate. The relationship I had with him, and making him feel comfortable, that was big (in Houston)."
Before all the disappointment began, I was told multiple times by people who make big decisions that there was no way Superman wasn't coming back. He would be re-signed. He would not be allowed to leave Houston, even with a $23.2 million player option lingering, the Rockets currently pushing the limits of a soft salary cap and Howard potentially seeking new max money on the market.
Howard has a player option for next season at $23.2 million. The team expects him to become a free agent, taking advantage of a salary cap that is projected to expand from $67 million to nearly $90 million. Becoming a free agent would give Howard, 30, one last chance to lock up a lucrative deal.
Calvin Watkins: The deal with Dwight Howard's contract for next year: He automatically becomes a free agent next year. He can opt in and earn $23.2 mil. Rockets expect Howard to be free agent, no big deal, it's just business. He can opt-in but most likely he won't.
“I chose to go to Houston (via free agency in the summer of 2013), so why would I just say, 'I'm not happy' and leave,” Howard, who is widely expected to become a free agent again this summer, told USA TODAY Sports. “I chose this place, you know what I'm saying? And I want to make this thing work here. Obviously we haven't been playing great basketball, and personally for myself my numbers don't seem like I've been playing great, but the only thing on my mind is trying to grow as a man and grow as a teammate and a leader. All the BS that's around, sometimes it is frustrating to hear it, because I know who I am as a man and I know what I'm trying to do for this city.”
“People can say what they want about me and James and that whole situation, but I came here and the biggest reason was because of him, because I want both of us to grow and be great basketball players and be great teammates together,” Howard said. “It's on us to do it. We are the ones who are held accountable for the good things and the bad things that happen to this team, and I came here with that mission, so that both of us can grow. He's rising as a star, and I've seen all the things that he's done and I've been through almost all of the things that he's done as a basketball player. And I want to help him grow and reach even higher heights. All the other stuff is just noise. I just hate hearing it.”
“I came here, and it's a mission to make this team a championship team,” Howard said. “There's always going to be rumors (and) I don't know what's going to happen at the end of the summer, but right now and since I've been here, the only mission is to help this team win a championship. The first year (in Houston), we made it to the playoffs, went out in the first round, and the second year of us being together - me and James - we went to the Western Conference Finals. That's big. We may have not won the championship, but after two years of being together and going through all the things that we went through as players, we were still able to make it to the Western Conference Finals together. You know, the sky is the limit for us. We've got to put aside anything - all the noise - and just focus on winning.”
Dwight Howard has the potential of opting out of his contract after the season. He was asked about that following the second day of Rockets training camp. Howard made it clear that he's not thinking about such issues at this point of the year. "There's no need to live in the future," Howard said. "I'm not a guy that lives in the future. The only moment that matters is right now, what we accomplish as a team. And it starts with training camp. "There's no need for me to focus on anything (that is) next summer," he continued. "My job is to focus on how I can get this team to be the best team in the NBA and win a championship."
Storyline: Dwight Howard Free Agency
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December 4, 2020 | 6:06 pm EST Update
Chris Kirschner: I do know that both sides would like to get something done. That’s been expressed both publicly and privately. I remember talking with John at the start of last season in training camp, and he was telling me that he loves Atlanta and wants to be here. He wants to be a building block alongside Trae Young. The issue is that he might come across if he remains adamant about being a max player.
December 4, 2020 | 5:49 pm EST Update
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