NBA@2: Houston Rockets Would Rent Dwight Howard?
The situation in Orlando may have changed, but not necessarily for the better. Yes, head coach Stan Van Gundy had to go, as did GM Otis Smith, but in the wake of those two departures Dwight Howard’s camp is as committed as ever to moving on when his contract expires next season.
The Magic are busy interviewing GM candidates, having talked to everyone from former Portland Trail Blazers Blazers GM Kevin Pritchard to Shaquille O’Neal, all in an effort to find a way to keep their star center in town long-term. Unfortunately, the bridge has already been burned. The Magic organization has allowed the perception that Howard was at the core of all the problems this season to persist, and his camp is extremely unhappy about that.
Sources close to the situation tell HOOPSWORLD that if the Magic can’t put themselves in a situation to keep Dwight long-term before this summer’s NBA draft, they will very seriously consider trading him.
Trading for Dwight is a huge gamble for any team, especially after he required back surgery to repair a herniated disc. It will cost plenty to acquire him and even if he is healthy enough to have a huge impact next season he will have the ability to simply walk away at the end of the year. There aren’t many teams that would agree to take him without an extension in place, and Howard’s camp is not ready to commit to an extension . . .certainly not in Orlando.
There aren’t many teams that would make that gamble, but there are some who would.
One of the teams who would welcome a conversation with Orlando is likely to be the Houston Rockets, who have been desperately seeking a franchise front court player since before Yao Ming was forced to retire. In free agency they have missed out on big names like Chris Bosh and even not-so-big names like Marcin Gortat. They have had little luck trading for their superstar, and when they finally did pull of a major trade for Pau Gasol the NBA stepped in to nix the deal.
The Rockets have been mired in mediocrity long enough that they are ready to make a dare-to-be-great move, and landing Dwight Howard would be just such a move.
Houston has plenty to offer in trade, whether the Magic were interested in players, draft picks, or a combination of both. Orlando has long been after Courtney Lee, and while the Rockets would rather send out Kevin Martin, if Lee was the piece that got it done, they would part with Courtney. Luis Scola, Samuel Dalembert (option), Martin, Chase Budinger – the Magic could basically take their pick. Houston also has two first round picks that they would happily throw them in if it meant landing Howard.
For their part, the Rockets have plenty of reasons to believe that after a year in Houston Dwight would want to sign a long-term deal to stay. First and foremost, the fan base is so hungry for a star player and the contending status he would represent that Dwight would be met with deafening enthusiasm every time he took the court. He would be a part of a proud history that includes Hakeem Olajuwon, whom Dwight has befriended and who has become a mentor for Dwight, as well. The cost of living in Houston is comparatively low, and playing the majority of his games in a state with no state income tax would be fiscally advantageous, as well. Dwight enjoys that in Florida, but in Florida he only has his home games and games in Miami that are not subject to state tax. In Texas he would avoid state taxes for games played in Houston, Dallas and San Antonio, meaning he would keep more of his paycheck as a member of the Rockets than he would playing for a team outside of Texas.
The Orlando Magic’s first choice is clearly to keep Dwight Howard, but if that’s not possible they will have little choice other than to gauge his trade value around the NBA. A number of teams would welcome that conversation, but none perhaps more than the Houston Rockets.
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The Dallas Mavericks have made no secret of their desire to trade Lamar Odom before NBA free agency begins; after all, if he is still on their roster after June 29th they will owe him the $2.5 million that’s guaranteed on his contract for next season, and that’s not something Mavericks owner Mark Cuban wants to do.
Odom’s trade value is definitely in question, given that he pulled a well-publicized disappearing act on the Mavs after they put him in a position to be a huge contributor on a championship-caliber team. Instead he did his best impression of Maverick in Top Gun, refusing to engage the enemy because he had lost his best friend in a training accident. Odom’s play was so frustrating to Mavs head coach Rick Carlisle that at one point during a game he turned to the stands and mouthed to Odom’s wife: “How do I get him to shoot???”
The Mavericks ultimately asked Odom to just stay away from the team while he collected his check, and Odom happily obliged.
So what does a team getting Odom in trade really receive? Does Odom need Kobe Bryant to hold his hand in order to be an effective NBA player, or can some other team find a way to get him to play the caliber of basketball that made him a perennial Sixth Man Of the Year candidate in LA?
Ian Begley of ESPN New York suggests that the New York Knicks would take a chance on Odom, but only if he came at a massively discounted rate. If the Mavs can’t trade him and wind up buying him out, Odom would be free to sign anywhere and could take a minimum deal such as the Knicks could offer. Begley quotes a source who says that Odom, a Queens native, would be very open to playing for the Knicks at a discounted rate.
It’s really not clear why Odom quit on the Mavericks. He gave a number of reasons, ranging from the death of his infant child six years ago to the distraction of his wife’s reality TV show, but none of that really rang true. On a stop through Dallas, Bryant suggested that the Mavericks just didn’t know how to use Odom, but given that Carlisle often called him the team’s most important new addition and tried playing him at any and all positions, that didn’t ring true, either.
Can playing in New York snap Odom out of his funk? It will be interesting to see if any other teams are willing to make that gamble by acquiring Odom from Dallas before he has a chance to sign for peanuts in New York.
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