Dwight Howard said he likes Milwaukee and wanted to go to the Bucks at the trade deadline, according to Bucks television play-by-play announcer Gus Johnson, who relayed details of his conversation with the former All-Star center during Monday’s broadcast of the Rockets-Bucks game (video link via Rob Perez of The Big Lead; hat tip to Kurt Helin of ProBasketballTalk). Johnson said Howard told him the sticking point was that the Bucks wanted him to sign an extension. That’s similar to what Marc Stein of ESPN.com heard when he reported on deadline day that talks between the Rockets and Bucks fell apart because Howard wouldn’t agree to opt in for next season. Howard is expected to turn down his option, worth $23.282MM, in pursuit of a max deal this summer with a starting salary of about $30MM.
The news seemingly pits the Bucks as a free agent contender for Howard. Milwaukee surprisingly landed Greg Monroe last year, a signing that jarred the perception of Milwaukee as an unattractive destination, but the Bucks reportedly made Monroe available before the trade deadline last month. Jason Kidd, who’s apparently been the prime mover of player personnel for the Bucks, appears to be losing influence within the team’s power structure, and Howard recently fired agent Dan Fegan, so both sides seem to be in transition.
Howard is widely expected to leave the Rockets in free agency, as Ken Berger of CBSSports.com wrote last month, though the 30-year-old center denies that he asked to be traded, saying that he wants to find success in Houston. He’s also continually downplayed rumors of discord between him and James Harden.
Milwaukee has about $61.6MM in guaranteed salary against a projected $90MM cap, and with at least an additional $2,173,884 in cap holds the Bucks would have to carry, they’re likely a few million dollars shy of the cap space necessary to sign Howard outright to a max deal. Monroe and Howard would be an awkward pairing, particularly with fellow big man John Henson also recently signed to a four-year extension, so it’s quite conceivable another round of Monroe rumors will surface if Howard shows continued interest in Milwaukee.