Dwight Howard said “No” last night when he was asked if he now has interest in playing for the Los Angeles Clippers.
The key word in that question is “now.”
Because right now, he wants to play for the New Jersey Nets, Dallas Mavericks or Los Angeles Lakers — and the Lakers are a distant third on that list. The Clippers would be something to consider if circumstances over the next several months make those first three destinations unattainable, and as I reported in my story on the Howard-Clippers possibility, it would only happen next summer through a sign-and-trade (a detail too many people are overlooking).
How could that happen?
Here is a timeline that would put the Clippers into play.
(For more on my side of the story, give a listen to this interview I did this morning with Brian Fritz and Mike Bianchi on the Open Mike Show on 740 The Game radio in Orlando.)
1. The Mavericks fail to trade Shawn Marion for an expiring contract(s). Right now, the Mavericks are positioned to have enough cap space to make a run at one max-salary unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2012. If they can move Marion, who has a player option worth $9 million for next season, in exchange for a player or players who come off the cap after this season, they will have room to go after two max players. That is their ticket for recruiting both Howard and Deron Williams.
2. Deron Williams opts out with the Nets and commits to Dallas. Williams has already stated his intention to opt out, and if he makes a commitment to Dallas for their one max slot (assuming Marion has not been traded), then there is not enough money left for Howard to join him with the Mavericks. If however, Williams opts out and then tells the Nets he will re-sign with them for more than $100 million over five years, the Nets will still have enough cap space to make Howard a max offer, and he could join a team that has a core of Williams, Brook Lopez, Anthony Morrow, MarShon Brooks and the Nets’ lottery pick, which will be a high pick in a deep draft. (This is New Jersey’s dream scenario)
3. Howard spurns Brooklyn. Assuming Williams commits to the Mavericks after July 1 for their lone max salary slot, Howard decides he does not want to play for the Nets because they no longer have Williams.
4. The Lakers get outbid. If situations 1, 2 and 3 happen, the Nets and Mavericks are off the list. Who’s left? The Lakers are team No. 3. Maybe they are willing to give up Andrew Bynum in a sign-and-trade. Maybe. But then the Clippers call the Magic and say we’ll give you DeAndre Jordan, Eric Bledsoe, Mo Williams and the rights to their No. 1 pick. The Magic then tell Howard that the only sign-and-trade they’ll agree to is the Clippers’ offer. That would then leave him to choose between the Nets, without Williams, or the Clips, who have Chris Paul and Blake Griffin.
That’s how it could go down, and that is six months from now. Not now.
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