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Dwight Howard Free Agency Watch: Part 5

At the moment of writing, and since my last installment, the hottest news has been that of a strong-armed push by the strong-headed Chris Paul to engineer a string of moves that would propel, in my opinion, the LA Clippers to the head of the class in the Western Conference.  The Clippers and Celtics are haggling, but in the end, LA’s other team could have a roster featuring Paul, Jason Terry, Courtney Lee, Paul Pierce, Dwight Howard, and Kevin Garnett.  And they’d actually for the first time in the Paul era have a real coach.

While LA doesn’t want to have to take back Terry and Lee because of the amounts those two are still owed, one must admit that on-court, with those players’ pedigree and experience, the effect would be a net positive, especially come postseason time.  And of course swapping out Jordan and Griffin for Garnett and Howard takes Lob City from flash to actual substance.

While reports are that some in LA’s front office have balked at the idea of trading Griffin, I think the Clippers would be fools to not make that deal.  But I digress.  Let’s examine where things now stand:

This Doc Rivers-Garnett deal is going to get done, sooner or later – the two sides are just posturing.  There’s absolutely no reason for Boston to not agree to whatever the two sides settle on because they essentially have no leverage.  (One wonders how they’ve even managed to leverage this situation in the first place.)  The Celtics can’t bring back Doc after this nor would they event want to (and have to pay him $7million during a rebuilding year); same goes for Garnett.  Once this thing gets done and Doc/Garnett/Pierce land in LA, I think that effectively cements CP3’s return to the Clippers, regardless of whether or not the Clippers can get Howard.  (Or does it?)

[sidenote: Those moves give Paul one hell of a one year window.  And I’m sure he loves LA.  But orchestrating a Howard-Harden-Paul trio in Houston gives him the best long term chance.]

But let’s just assume Paul is locked in in LA.  That takes Atlanta out of the running for Howard because he’s obviously not going to want to go there alone now, without Paul.  So that brings us back to Houston, staying with the Lakers, and going to the Clippers.

In some weird way, in my personal opinion, I almost feel like the Clippers option serves to eliminate the Lakers as a plausible choice for Howard.  Before, it was seemingly between Houston and the Lakers: the “best”, fun choice vs. guilt, loyalty, and whatever other platitudes you can muster up.  But now there’s another serious fun choice in the Clippers and when you have two choices that good that you’re weighing between, I would just think it’d be too depressing to pass up on both and stay somewhere where you have no chance to win for at least another year.  So I think if he can’t get to the Clippers, he comes to Houston.

I think if Dwight had his way, today, he’d want to be a Clipper.  He stays in Hollywood with the best point guard on the planet.  But the debate is whether the two cross-town rivals would work together on a deal.  I already discussed the Clippers’ side but if you’re the Lakers, do you prefer Blake and the chance at one other star in ’14 or a completely clean slate?  What is a bird in hand really worth?  I personally just can’t decide which way I’d lean.  On the one hand, if you take Griffin, at least you are guaranteed one star rather than getting nothing next summer.  But on the other hand, you could’ve offered Lebron the chance to pick whoever he wants beside him, whether it be Carmelo or whomever.  You can also completely suck and give yourself a better shot at Wiggins.

[sidenote 2: I still think anyone thinking the Lakers would be willing to take Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin in a S&T is completely kidding themselves.  The Lakers are not only going to sabotage their ’14 plans but also pay luxury tax next year for a mediocre team?  Right.]

I think the big irony in all of these depressing developments regarding Dwight, when it seemed like the odds of him coming to Houston were favorable, is that if all of this somehow happens, the odds of the Rockets acquiring Pau Gasol shoot up.  Yes, we’ve come full circle.

Assuming the LA teams hook up on a Howard deal, unless Kobe protests too much, you could easily see Morey trading Thomas Robinson somewhere and then absorbing Pau Gasol in a trade with the Lakers hoping to shed off more salary.  We could give them Matt Maloney or someone, doesn’t matter – Houston would be the only suitor on the market.  A lot of you would bitch and moan but, as was evident late last year, Gasol still has a ton left in the tank and would drastically improve this team.  It’s a much better option than signing Josh Smith and ruining our chances next summer.

For now though, there’s no reason to think that Houston’s chances for Dwight still aren’t strong.  It’s only June 17th and even he probably hasn’t yet made his mind up.  All we have are reports from parties with a lot at stake.

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About the author: Rahat Huq is a lawyer in real life and the founder and editor-in-chief of Red94.net.

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