Western Notes: Howard, Durant, Morris

Despite the reports that the Rockets are entertaining trade offers for Dwight Howard, GM Daryl Morey insists the team hasn’t given up on the season and the center is needed if Houston wants to make a playoff push, Brian T. Smith of The Houston Chronicle relays. “We’re just focused on this season,” Morey told reporters. “So is Dwight. If we as a team and he as a player plays like we know he’s capable and has been this year and was last year, all that stuff takes care of itself. There’s no way we make the conference finals last year without Dwight and there’s no way [we] are making the solid playoff push this year without Dwight.

The Rockets haven’t had any meaningful dialogue about a Howard trade since December and aren’t looking to trade him, one source told Calvin Watkins and Marc Stein of ESPN.com, a dispatch that conflicts with earlier reports. Here’s more from out West:

  • Houston plans to make a big push this offseason to sign unrestricted free agent Kevin Durant, and the front office believes it has a legitimate shot to sign the Thunder star, Watkins and Stein note in the same piece. Rockets officials believe privately that they will have as good a chance as any team to lure Durant away from Oklahoma City because of his strong relationship with former teammate James Harden and the room Houston has to pay Durant max-contract money while also re-signing Howard, the ESPN duo note.
  • The Suns have indicated they plan to make Markieff Morris the focal point of their offense, a move that is geared to showcase him to teams potentially interested in trading for the power forward, Lang Greene of Basketball Insiders opines.
  • Nuggets coach Michael Malone raves about the potential of big man Nikola Jokic and believes the sky is the limit for the 20-year-old, Harrison Wind of BSNDenver.com relays (via Twitter). “You can talk about some of these very young bigs who are very talented. I know Nikola Jokic and wouldn’t trade him for anybody in the world,” Malone said.  “He’s a special young man, he’s a special young talent and he’s only going to get better as he continues to get stronger. But he’s a heck of a young talent. I give a lot of credit to [GM] Tim Connelly and the front office for finding him and making him part of this organization.”
  • Former Hornets point guard Jannero Pargo, who signed with the D-League earlier this week, was claimed off waivers by the Thunder‘s D-League affiliate, Chris Reichert of Upside & Motor tweets.
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