As another morning dawned on the Great Dwight Howard Trade Watch, there was no change in the All-Star center/diva’s whereabouts: still stuck in Orlando with those Brooklyn blues again. There was, however, some uncertainty about the rest of his Magic teammates. And, for that matter, the Houston Rockets’ roster as NBA followers once knew it.
At this point, Rockets general manager Daryl Morey lacks only the peg-leg and a harpoon to differentiate himself from Capt. Ahab in his impassioned, seemingly obsessive pursuit of Howard, his dunk-slamming, shot-swatting, free throw-clanging version of Moby Dick. It has reached quest proportions, revved up as the Brooklyn Nets essentially dropped out of the trade market for the unhappy strongman superstar.
No cost is too great, it seems, as Morey pursues Howard. Already, the Rockets have taken a cleaver to their roster and are prepared to forge ahead in 2012-13 without seven of the top 11 players in minutes from last season’s squad. Now the roster cost might include forward Luis Scola, who not only was on the court more than any other Houston player (2,067 minutes last season) but scored more points, took more shots and grabbed more offensive rebounds than any of his teammates.
Scola, a 32-year-old ironman in his five Rockets season, clearly has given them their money’s worth. But his future paychecks are the ones that might get him sacrificed to the cause, as Josh Robbins explains in the Orlando Sentinel:
According to Yahoo! Sports, the Rockets have decided to waive forward Luis Scola using the collective bargaining agreement’s amnesty provision. Although Scola still would be paid the remaining $21 million guaranteed to him over the next three years, the move would clear his contract off the Rockets’ books and would allow the Rockets to accept more of the Magic’s onerous salary obligations.
The Magic would like to shed as many long-term contracts as possible from their payroll, and trading away some combination of Chris Duhon, Jason Richardson, Quentin Richardson and Hedo Turkoglu would improve the franchise’s salary-cap flexibility.
Magic general manager Rob Hennigan emphasized Thursday night that no trade is imminent. “I don’t think there’s a real correlation to anything with Luis as it pertains to us,” Hennigan said.
But the Magic have limited trade options otherwise.
The whole process might be gummed up by Houston’s agreed-upon offer sheets to New York guard Jeremy Lin and Chicago backup center Omer Asik; if the clock on those starts Friday and the Knicks and the Bulls use up their full three days before deciding to match or not, Morey won’t know exactly how much salary-cap flexibility he has for a while.
And then there’s the chance that Hennigan and the Magic opt for a deal that includes the L.A. Lakers, in which Lakers center Andrew Bynum could be the big man ending up in Houston (Orlando has injury concerns about Bynum and isn’t interested in coping with another 7-footer-who-won’t-stay headache).
If that one played out, the Rockets still might be better off than the way they look right now, wrote Jerome Solomon of the Houston Chronicle:
Bynum playing for Kevin McHale would be interesting. McHale can be tough, but he is fair and straightforward. If Bynum is serious about becoming a superstar, McHale can help to that end.
The Rockets run simple stuff, but simple is good when you have a dominant low-post presence. Bynum would get more than his share in the paint and could find being the No. 1 option quite enjoyable after being the fifth-option on team Kobe. (The Lakers’ standard offensive order: Kobe, Kobe, Kobe, Gasol, Bynum.)
Another problem with the Lakers-Magic-Rockets deal is it makes the Lakers the favorite in the Western Conference, and on paper, perhaps the entire league. But the Rockets can live with that, because they would be closer to the discussion than they have been in some time.
That’s not quite right: The Rockets are in the middle of a lot of heavy NBA discussions at the moment, whether it’s GM to GM and a whole lot of media types and fans fascinated by Morey’s high-wire act across Niagara.