This isn't the first time in the last several days that we've heard Howard is intrigued by the Rockets. A report over the weekend indicated that the All-Star center was showing interest in both the Rockets and Mavericks, though the report classified the Lakers as the frontrunners. A separate report since then classified Howard's relationship with current Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni as somewhat strained, so if D12 decides to sign where he'd be happiest, it's not hard to make the case that'd be somewhere besides L.A.
We're still several weeks away from July 1st, when teams can officially make pitches to Howard and other free agents, so I wouldn't expect Dwight to make his final decision before that point. When free agency opens, the Mavericks, Hawks, and perhaps the Cavaliers are expected to join the Lakers and Rockets in pursuit of Howard.
We gave you the pre-Lottery links and the Lottery results, so with the 2013 NBA Lottery in the books, it's only fair that we round up for you the draft news and notes from around the league:
Despite winning the lottery, the Cavaliers will still explore potential trade scenarios for the top selection, tweets ESPN's Brian Windhorst. The Cavs, who own the first, 19th, 31st and 33rd picks in June's draft, also have cap space and a hunger to win as soon as possible.
If the Cavs, or whoever else, don't select Nerlens Noel with the top selection, the former Kentucky center could fall out of the top three, tweets Yahoo's Marc Spears.
If not Noel, ESPN's Chad Ford tweets that Otto Porter could be a dark horse candidate to go first overall. According to Ford, Cleveland loves Porter because he is a perfect fit who is NBA-ready and can therefore help right away.
The Mavericks will look to trade the No. 13 pick in an attempt to preserve cap space for a run at Dwight Howard, tweets ESPN's Chad Ford. Ford adds that the No. 13 pick will make $1,655,300 in 2013/14.
The Timberwolves secured the No. 9 pick, which leads Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune, via Twitter, to guess that the team will take the best big man available with their first pick and then take a flyer on a shooting guard with their second first rounder at No. 26.
We received word earlier this afternoon that head coach Vinny Del Negrowill not be retained by the Clippers, and Ken Berger of CBSSports.com says (via Twitter) that one of the primary reasons for the decision was the fact that Chris Paul wasn't a fan of Del Negro. According to Berger (via Twitter), the star point guard didn't back the coach to management at season's end.
Here are a few more afternoon rumblings out of the Western Conference:
Another Los Angeles free-agent-to-be, Dwight Howard, apparently isn't a fan of his head coach either -- Dave McMenamin of ESPNLosAngeles.com reports that Howard voiced some displeasure and frustration with Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni in a meeting with GM Mitch Kupchak at season's end. However, McMenamin notes that the relationship between D12 and D'Antoni isn't irreparable, and former Howard coach Stan Van Gundy told David Baumann of Sports Talk Florida (Twitter link) today that he wasn't giving much credence to the story.
A source tells Jimmy Smith of the New Orleans Times-Picayune (Twitter link) that there's "no merit" to trade rumors involving Eric Gordon.
No teams have contacted the Grizzlies to ask permission to speak to head coach Lionel Hollins yet, tweets Ronald Tillery of the Memphis Commercial-Appeal.
According to Ric Bucher of 95.7 The Game (Sulia link), the fact that the Sacramento arena plan involves a significant public subsidy wasn't insignificant when the league voted on the Kings' relocation bid.
The Clippers won't be among the teams in pursuit of Dwight Howard this summer, sources tell Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com (on Twitter). The Clippers won't make a run at DH for multiple reasons, sources say, and we can assume that a lack of cap space is chief among them. The rumors linking Chris Paul and Howard have been floating for some time, however, and the Hawks are hoping that they can pull off a shocker and land both.
Kobe Bryant responded via Twitter to an internet rumor that said he would retire this summer following his painful Achilles tendon tear. "Really?? Me. Retire?? Soon, but not yet," the Lakers star said.
If the Mavs make a play for Paul this summer, owner Mark Cuban will be their biggest weapon in recruiting, writes Tim MacMahon of ESPNDallas.com. Of course, Cuban was expected to be a big part of his club's pitch to Deron Williams last summer. Dallas didn't lure Williams back to his home state and some believe that Cuban's decision to skip their pitch meeting had something to do with it.
Earlier today, Ken Berger of CBSSports.com wrote that Dwight Howard was showing interest in the Rockets and Mavericks while he contemplates his free agent fate this summer and ignores the Lakers' request to re-sign with them as quickly as possible. The Lakers can offer Howard a fifth year and more money because the 2011 CBA allows annual raises of 7.5% over the first year, which would be in excess of $20MM for Howard; the other teams bidding for the 27-year-old center's services, including the long shot Netsand Hawks, can only offer increases of 4.5% over the first year.
Remember, Howard is just entering his peak years, and will likely sign another max contract before he retires, so a four-year deal with an option for the final year would allow him to become a free agent again at 30, when he can then sign a larger five-year deal. While Howard takes his time deciding, do you think he re-signs with the Lakers, or does he jump to some other team said to be in the mix?
Dwight Howard is strongly considering signing with his third team this summer, and the Rockets are the prime candidate, writes CBSSports.com's Ken Berger. Even though the Lakers are strong front-runners to re-sign the All-Star center and make him their next franchise player–they can offer the most guaranteed money and a fifth year of service.
However, Howard is reportedly showing more interest in Houston's young team. They have more room to grow and improve than Los Angeles, and from a purely basketball standpoint they most likely represent his best chance at winning an NBA championship in the immediate future.
The Mavericks are another team that intrigues Howard, and they should be able to carve enough cap space to sign him if the 27-year-old is willing to sign a four-year deal.
Let's round up the latest out of the Atlantic, where the division's lone remaining team (the Knicks) will attempt to stave off elimination at Madison Square Garden tonight....
The Sixers have received permission to interview Rockets assistant Kelvin Sampson, according to John N. Mitchell of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Sampson had already been on Philadelphia's list of candidates before former Rockets assistant GM Sam Hinkie was hired by the Sixers, but it will be interesting to see whether or not the Houston connection makes Sampson a stronger candidate for the opening.
Mitchell adds in the same piece that Hinkie is believed to be eyeing Jazz assistant Jeff Hornacek as well.
In identifying Dwight Howard's five likeliest free agent destinations, Alex Kennedy of HoopsWorld writes that there's still mutual interest between Howard and the Nets.
While Kennedy notes that, due to their cap situation, the Nets are a
"long shot," I'd classify Brooklyn's odds of landing Howard as even more
miniscule than that.
Mark Hale of the New York Post notes that Jason Kidd has said there's no guarantee he'll finish his current three-year contract, and wonders if Kidd's struggles during this postseason could influence a retirement decision.
Earlier today, we passed along the latest developments in the saga that has Sacramento and Seattle investment groups vying to buy the Kings. Here are a few more of today's links relating to Pacific Division clubs:
Brian Floyd of SBNation.com provides a helpful primer for the Kings situation, answering a number of frequently asked questions about where things stand.
The Lakers' D-League affiliate has hired former Laker Mark Madsen as the team's new head coach. The L.A. D-Fenders made the move official today (link via Twitter).
More coaching news for the Lakers: Assistant Steve Clifford is interviewing today for the Bucks' head coaching opening, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports. According to Wojnarowski, Stan Van Gundy declined to interview for the position, but recommend Clifford to Bucks GM John Hammond.
Metta World Peacehasn't offered any public hints about whether he plans to exercise his early-termination option for next season, but Salary Cap FAQ author Larry Coon hears he intends to play out his contract with the Lakers. World Peace is due $7,727,280 in the final season of his five-year deal, and Coon would be "shocked" if he turned that down.
The news isn't unexpected, since World Peace might have trouble making half as much next season if he were to hit the open market. He could probably wrangle more guaranteed money as part of a long-term deal, but at 33 years old, few teams would be willing to give him a contract that stretched out for too long.
World Peace has shown durability and, this year, a remarkable capacity to recover from a late-season knee injury, but his on-court efficiency hasn't been the same since he signed with the Lakers four years ago. His career PER had been 16.5 during his first 10 seasons in the league, but his PER with L.A. is just 11.8. His number this year was slightly higher, at 12.5, as World Peace was tasked with more minutes and shots amid an injury-hit season for his Lakers teammates.
In his blog post, Coon counts World Peace among the Lakers' commitments for next season and ponders whether the team could sign both Dwight Howard and Chris Paul, as Grantland's Bill Simmons suggested. Such a move would require the team to amnesty Kobe Bryant and trade Pau Gasol to the Rockets, and there's no reasonable scenario that would allow the Lakers to offer max contracts to both Howard and Paul, as Coon deduces.
According to Grantland's Bill Simmons, who finishes off his three-part trade value column, there's "increasing buzz" that the Lakers would amnesty Kobe Bryant if they were guaranteed to sign both Dwight Howard and Chris Paul. That appears a longshot on multiple counts, since the Clippers seem all but assured of re-signing Paul, while the Lakers have insisted they're not considering the amnesty move on Kobe. Even if the Lakers take Kobe's $30MM+ salary for next season off their books, it would still be difficult for the team to fit a max contract for Paul under the cap. Regardless, the offseason figures to be full of intrigue in L.A., as always. Here's the latest from the City of Angels and other Western Conference locales:
HoopsWorld's Bill Ingram identifies the five teams most likely to lure Josh Smith away from the Hawks, with the Mavericks at the top of the list. If the Hawks want to pursue a sign-and-trade, however, that would probably eliminate Dallas from the equation, Ingram figures.
In the same NBA PM piece, Ingram points to recent comments from GM Donnie Nelson and sizes up the Mavs' chances of landing Paul.
Charley Rosen of HoopsHype identifies the ideal coaching fit for each of the six teams with a current opening. Rosen, a longtime confidant of Pistons adviser Phil Jackson, wouldn't be surprised to see Brian Shaw wind up in Detroit, even though Rosen believes Stan Van Gundy is best suited for that job.
Los Angeles is a destination for many, but the idea of coaching either the Clippers or Lakers doesn't appeal to Van Gundy, HoopsWorld's Steve Kyler hears (Twitter link).