As Y! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted just hours ago, the Houston Rockets have used the collective bargaining agreement’s amnesty provision to cut forward Luis Scola. The deal clears the roughly $20million owed to the Argentinian from the team’s books, though they will still be on the hook for the bill in real-life fiscal terms.
Those circumstances naturally lead to the speculation that a Dwight Howard deal very well could be imminent. Per Woj, the Rockets plan to file the papers tomorrow (Friday.). While Woj mentions in his story on the move that no deal is imminent, it would seem to make little sense for the Rockets to commit to such an obligation sans some belief that a deal could get done. To my knowledge, there would serve no explicit benefit to cutting Scola now as opposed to waiting things out until later.
It’s important to understand the implications of the move. The Rockets now have the flexibility to absorb Howard, Turkoglu, Jason Richardson, and Chris Duhon (or Glen Davis in substitute of one of the middle 2.) They also, as pointed out by Wojnarowski, will have room under the cap next summer to fit yet another max contract in addition to Howard. Wojnarowski mentions the hope there would be a pairing of Clippers star Chris Paul with the Ro…errr..Magic center.
My take: while sound in theory, Paul would be a longshot for explicitly the same reason the Rockets might potentially be in position to land Howard. To join Houston, the Clippers guard would be sacrificing the roughly $30million more that L.A. could offer him under the league’s collective bargaining rules. (A team owning a player’s bird rights can offer the player a 5 year contract with 7.5% raises; outside teams can only offer 4 years at a 4.5% increase.)
The Rockets feel, and have felt all along, that the above calculus is what will give them a chance to retain Howard. It’s unlikely that logic would work in contravention allowing them to nab Paul.
But stranger things have happened…
Perhaps a first-round flameout in L.A. next season leaves the game’s premiere guard in search of greener pastures? One can dream.
The more likelier scenario would be for the Rockets to utilize the space to pursue one of the second tier stars on next summer’s market, such as Andre Iguodala or Josh Smith. While neither player would be worth their tag, to keep Howard the obligation would obviously be a no-brainer.
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I’ll be on ESPN Radio 97.5FM tomorrow afternoon at 1PM to discuss the ramifications of this move.