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The calm before the storm?

UPDATE at 9:30AM: The Rockets have traded Chase Budinger to Minnesota for the #18 pick in Thursday’s draft.

Word broke late Sunday night that the Rockets were exploring ways to acquire both the #5 and #8 picks in Thursday’s draft, hoping to then send those two selections over to Orlando for center Dwight Howard in what would be the boldest move in recent NBA history.  NBA.com’s David Aldridge reported last night that, according to a source, there was “not a chance” Howard would resign with Houston if traded there.  That news comes as expected and won’t deter Houston general manager Morey.  We’ve known all along that Howard’s preference was Brooklyn so it’s predictable that these scare tactics would come forth from his camp.  The simple fact of the matter remains that if acquired, the acquiring team can offer the free-agent-to-be the highest raises and years under the rules of the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement.  If anything, Aldridge’s report confirms that for Howard—as would be the case for any rational individual—money is a concern.  Were it not, he would not have waived his option last year and would have just waited to sign with his preferred Nets outright this summer.

In the midst of what seems the greatest storm in quite some time, we now wait, just two days ahead.  The difficulty remains, of course, not only convincing the Magic to part ways with Howard but also, initially acquiring the picks.

Houston could send any combination of anyone on its roster to Sacramento and Toronto to get the deals done.  Possible combinations would be Kyle Lowry and a pick and, in a separate package, the other existing pick, the assignment of Kevin Martin’s trade value (perhaps Minneosta’s #18), and another young player (Marcus Morris.)  The Rockets could then send over the haul to Orlando and still take back the contract of forward Hedo Turkoglu with their existing cap space, if needed.

The hope would be to then, either through free agency or another trade, acquire a second star with their remaining room/assets to convince Howard to stay beyond this season.  They’ll be armed with the amnesty option to shed Luis Scola’s ~$10million, if desired.  As I mentioned yesterday, one more realistic possibility could be convincing free agent Kevin Garnett to sign at a discount to form the league’s most dominant defensive frontcourt.  Still, if feasible, Houston would prefer younger more long-term options.  We’ve discussed numerous permutations over the past few months, from Deron Williams to Rudy Gay, so that topic need not be belabored.  The point is, the plan would be a “two-step”, similar to last year’s Gasol/Nene near dual acquisition.  Howard would need a runningmate he respects to be convinced to stay for the future.

Such a deal need not be sold by this blog.  I’ve advocated the pursuit of Howard since word first broke, even if it means potentially losing him altogether.  After a third straight lottery finish, now is the time for boldness.  At worst, if the picks can be acquired, those two top-10 overall selections would make for a better nucleus than what the team currently has.  This whole process seems a no-brainer from a logical standpoint.  Let’s hope that, as has been the case, logistics for once do not stand in the path.

The merits of a Howard acquisition are obvious.  If acquired, because the team’s starting backcourt (Courtney Lee and Goran Dragic) would remain untouched, the team would with that trio alone have the foundation for one of the better teams in the West.  Depending on what happened with Luis Scola, Chandler Parsons, or another big name acquisition, the Rockets could make a run at the conference, this year.  

With just two more days remaining, we’ll wait.  More news will inevitably break in the coming hours of Howard’s aversion to a Houston deal.  Know that at the moment, that’s inconsequential and won’t deter Morey.  They know this and they don’t care.  They want Howard and they want to convince him to stay the way Chris Webber changed his tune about Sacramento after enjoying success in that city.

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

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