Some friends of Dwight Howard indicated recently that he would have interest in signing to play in New York if he opts out from the Rockets this summer, league sources told Ian Begley of ESPNNewYork.com. Begley shares the tidbit within a larger piece about Phil Jackson‘s approach in free agent pitch meetings, so presumably it’s in reference to the Knicks and not the Nets. It’s unclear whether the Knicks have mutual interest, according to Begley, and it also remains to be seen just how highly the former All-Star center regards the Knicks compared to other free agent destinations that appeal to him. Bucks broadcaster Gus Johnson said Howard told him he likes Milwaukee and wanted to join the Bucks at the trade deadline.
Talks between the Bucks and Rockets reportedly fell apart because Howard wouldn’t agree to opt in, and Howard is expected to turn down his player option in search of a more lucrative max deal. Just what happens when he hits free agency is much more difficult to predict, and not just because of the big man’s history of back-and-forth decision-making. Howard recently fired agent Dan Fegan and has yet to name a replacement. The Rockets were apparently in touch with the Mavericks, Bulls, Hawks, Celtics, Hornets, Heat, Bucks and Raptors about Howard as they engaged teams in trade talks about Howard but found the market for the 30-year-old underwhelming.
The nature of Howard’s relationship with the Rockets is also tough to discern. He’s widely expected to leave in free agency, as Ken Berger of CBSSports.com wrote last month, but he’s denied that he asked to be traded and said he wants to be successful in Houston. Howard has downplayed rumors of discord between him and James Harden.
The Knicks have only about $55MM in guaranteed salary for next season against a salary cap projected to come in between $90MM and $95MM, though that doesn’t include player options for Arron Afflalo and Derrick Williams. New York wouldn’t have the cap flexibility necessary to pay Howard his max of some $30MM for next season if Afflalo and Williams opt in.