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Southwest Notes: Howard, Harrell, Pachulia

Rockets decision-makers told Brian T. Smith of the Houston Chronicle before the disappointment of the season set in that they had no intention of letting Dwight Howard get away this coming summer, but GM Daryl Morey said to Smith more recently that he’s not thinking too far in the future at this point. The team reportedly expects Howard to turn down his player option for next season, a move that appears a wise financial play for him.
“We’re just focused on this season. So is Dwight,” Morey said. “If … he as a player play[s] like we know he’s capable [of] … all that stuff takes care of itself.”
See more from Houston amid the latest from the Southwest Division:
  • Rockets interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff wants to give rookie Montrezl Harrell more playing time, as the Chronicle’s Jenny Dial Creech details. Houston imposed a hard cap on itself when it signed Harrell in the offseason. Fellow power forward Terrence Jones is reportedly a trade candidate.  “Every time Montrezl has played, he’s helped us,” Bickerstaff said, according to Creech. “I have to do a better job of finding minutes for him and getting him on the court. His energy is infectious and the guys love to play with him. We need guys like that on the floor.”
  • Zaza Pachulia likes Dallas and said he’s not focused on what he’ll do when he hits free agency this summer, observes Sean Deveney of The Sporting News. Still, Pachulia made it clear he enjoys playing with Dirk Nowitzki, who doesn’t appear ready to retire from the Mavericks in the near future. “It’s such a great honor to play next to him,” Pachulia said to Deveney. “Dirk has been there for years, and this guy is all about the winning. That’s a lot of motivation when you come to Dallas and play for the Mavericks; you have to do all the things to win games and have a good season.”
  • The Pelicans have been disappointing this season, but their bench has been a bright spot, thanks to Ryan Anderson and Jrue Holiday, as John Reid of The Times Picayune examines. At least one person within an NBA team has raised the specter of Anderson as a maximum-salary player when he hits free agency this summer.

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