SH Blog: CP3 to return to Clippers; Iguodala, Josh Smith have significant interest; Bargnani to Knicks?

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Dwight bannerTick-tock, tick-tock … less than six hours left until teams can contact players and free agency begins. Check out Moke Hamilton’s top 50, and the podcast where Moke discusses what could happen with them, to get ready.

One thing we probably won’t have – to the massive relief of probably everyone in the world – is an immensely protracted drama regarding Dwight Howard’s next destination. The All-Star center will only visit five teams, and hopes to have decided by the time he makes his last visit. That means we could know where D12 is heading by the end of the week. Which will be a nice change from the last two summers.

We’ve got plenty of free agency news and rumors, starting with one superstar staying put, so let’s get right to the latest from around the NBA:

  • Big news out of LA today, via Chris Broussard of ESPN the Magazine: “Chris Paul’s representatives have told teams not to even bother pursuing the point guard when free agency begins at 12:01 a.m. ET Monday because he will re-sign with the Los Angeles Clippers, according to league sources. Paul’s decision to stay with the Clippers is no surprise, but the latest word from his camp has ended whatever small hope opposing teams had of luring the All-Star, sources said. Doc Rivers becoming the Clippers’ new head coach and senior vice president of basketball operations earlier this week assured that Paul will remain in Los Angeles, according to sources.”
  • More Clippers news, this time from ESPN.com’s Marc Stein: “The Toronto Raptors have joined the Orlando Magic at the head of the list of known suitors for Los Angeles Clippers guard Eric Bledsoe, according to sources close to the process. Sources told ESPN.com that talks between the Raptors and Clippers are still in the exploratory stage, but the Raptors’ interest in L.A.’s prized young point guard is said to be significant.The Clippers, though, have been lukewarm on Toronto’s pitches so far, sources say. The Raptors have been openly shopping out-of-favor forward Andrea Bargnani and have likewise pitched a trade scenario in which L.A. would receive both Bargnani and shooting guard DeMar DeRozan, but sources say new Clippers coach Doc Rivers — who was also named senior vice president of basketball operations — continues to express interest in not only hanging onto Bledsoe but also keeping center DeAndre Jordan.”
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  • One more Clippers item, from Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times: “The Clippers probably will have the “non-taxpayer” mid-level exception of $5.15 million to spend on a player, and it’s something that they can split up to use on two players. But it’s possible the Clippers might fall into the “taxpayer” mid-level exception of $3.183 million. The Clippers would like to bring back free-agent small forward Matt Barnes, who has drawn interest from the Lakers, according to some executives. The Clippers also want to re-sign Lamar Odom. But Odom will have to take less than the $8 million he made last season — probably the veteran’s minimum of $1.399 million for a player with 10-plus years of experience.”
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  • Howard-RocketsAdrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports lets everyone know what’s up in the Dwight Howard sweepstakes: “After two years of careful planning and preparation to make themselves irresistible to Dwight Howard, the Houston Rockets have emerged as the frontrunners to sign the free agent center and will make a formal presentation to him on Sunday night in Los Angeles, league sources told Yahoo! Sports. The Rockets, Atlanta Hawks, Dallas Mavericks, Golden State Warriors and Lakers will make presentations between Sunday’s midnight ET start of free agency and Tuesday evening, sources told Y! Sports. Howard doesn’t want this process to extend long beyond his final meetings on Tuesday and could have a decision before the end of the week, sources said. “He wants to make a decision based on basketball more than anything else,” one source with knowledge of Howard’s thinking told Y! Sports. For this reason, Howard has been leaning toward the Rockets in recent weeks and considers them the only team that would instantly allow him to play for a championship contender, sources said.”

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