It had been widely believed throughout the league that the only realistic teams in the Howard sweepstakes were the Houston Rockets and Dallas Mavericks, with the Los Angeles Lakers being a hopeful third option.
Howard also met with the Atlanta Hawks and Golden State Warriors, but no one really believed that they would be realistic candidates, despite various reports that the Warriors had made an enticing case for the coveted center.
The primary reason for writing off the Warriors, in particular, was simple: the Lakers had already stated that they would rather lose Howard for nothing than do a sign-and-trade, and that was the only way Golden State could acquire him because of their salary-cap situation. That situation took an interesting turn on Thursday, when it was reported that the Warriors would make an attempt to clear salary cap to sign Howard outright like the other teams are attempting to do, from Brian Windhorst and Marc Stein of ESPN:
The Golden State Warriors, increasingly convinced they have a legitimate shot at winning the Dwight Howard sweepstakes, have begun aggressively attempting to trade away players to clear the requisite salary-cap space to sign the All-Star center, according to sources with knowledge of the team’s thinking.
But Golden State’s hopes of actually acquiring Howard always have been clouded by the fact they would need the Lakers to agree to a sign-and-trade.
The Lakers have been adamant for weeks they would prefer to let Howard leave for nothing and bank the resultant salary-cap space in the summer of 2014, with many rival executives likewise convinced that L.A. would have real reservations about helping Howard land with a division rival. So sources say that the Warriors, in an effort to manufacture some financial flexibility to help their chances, have begun calling teams with salary-cap space to try to entice them to take expiring contracts off their books so they can clear a $20 million hole for Howard.
Such a scenario would be challenging, some executives have said, but not impossible. The Warriors have three huge expiring contracts in Andrew Bogut ($14 million), Richard Jefferson ($11 million) and Andris Biedrins ($9 million). According to sources, they have tried to unload all three players this week to teams with cap room.
If Joe Lacob and company are willing to go this far, they clearly received some kind of assurance from Howard’s camp that he would sign with them if the Warriors do their part. Either that, or they are willing to take a giant leap of faith for a player who is worth taking such a risk for, even if he gave them no such assurance that he would definitely sign with them. Whatever the case may be, Golden State appears to be in serious contention to land Howard, adding that much more intrigue and drama to the situation.
Onto other news from around the league:
- Marco Belinelli will join the Spurs next season, from Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports: “The San Antonio Spurs have reached agreement with free-agent guard Marco Belinelli on a two-year, $6 million contract, league sources told Yahoo! Sports. Belinelli, 27, averaged 9.6 points in 73 games for the Chicago Bulls last season. He is a 38.7 percent 3-point shooter in six NBA seasons. The Spurs will be his fifth team. The Spurs’ agreement with Belinelli comes after they struck deals with two of their own free agents: guard Manu Ginobili (two years, $14 million) and center Tiago Splitter (four years, $36 million).”