From NBA.com staff reports
Dwight Howard has, as expected, been a busy man during the opening two days of free agency.
First came a rendezvous with the Houston Rockets once the free-agent season began at 12:01 a.m. ET (or 9:01 Howard time in L.A.) that included chats with the Rockets’ brass as well as a few Houston basketball legends.
Yesterday, two teams perceived to be long shots to land Howard — the Warriors and Hawks — had their say with the All-Star big man. And while all of this is going on, the team Howard last played for — the L.A. Lakers — are concocting their pitch to him (which will take place sometime today).
Unlike his date with Houston, few details have surfaced from Howard’s meeting with Golden State and Atlanta, but the Los Angeles Times’ Mike Bresnahan has some information on the get togethers:
Howard met in Los Angeles with Golden State and Atlanta, neither of which has much of a chance to get him.
The Warriors are too far over the salary cap to sign Howard as a free agent and can obtain him only via sign-and-trade, which won’t happen because a) the Lakers probably will have to take back Warriors players whose contracts extend beyond this season, denting the massive amount of salary-cap space they can spend next year and b) such a trade saps the Warriors of valuable players that would be sent to the Lakers, making Golden State less desirable in Howard’s eyes.
Just the same, one of the members of the Warriors’ contingent was Lakers legend Jerry West, now a consultant with Golden State.
Atlanta is Howard’s hometown team, but the Hawks have never been higher than fourth on his list, according to a person familiar with Howard’s thinking. Generally speaking, the Hawks have a weak fan base and little to no tradition, having never been to the NBA Finals since moving from St. Louis in 1968.
Tuesday is the much bigger day for Howard’s future. He will meet with the Dallas Mavericks and then the Lakers, completing a five-team circuit in under 48 hours in Los Angeles.
As our own Scott Howard-Cooper pointed out last night, the Warriors’ pursuit of Howard may be wrought with some roster peril for a team that made the Western Conference semifinals just a few months ago.
With Atlanta and Golden State off the calendar, the Dallas Mavericks and owner Mark Cuban are next up to bat, writes Bresnahan:
He will meet with the Dallas Mavericks and then the Lakers, completing a five-team circuit in under 48 hours in Los Angeles.
Howard’s camp has long been intrigued by the free-spending ways of Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. Howard’s agent, Dan Fegan, has a close working relationship with Cuban, who will bring Dirk Nowitzki to Los Angeles for the pitch to Howard.
The news of the day, though, is Howard meeting with the Lakers. The attendees of today’s meeting — which, according to Bresnahan, include Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, coach Mike D’Antoni, GM Mitch Kupchak, Lakers business/marketing guru Tim Harris and team executive Jim Buss — reads as a who’s who of Lakers big-wigs. Aside from those names, the Lakers’ TV outlet could be in the meeting as well, writes ESPNLosAngeles.com’s Dave McMenamin:
The Lakers are still finalizing the roster of people who will be a part of their pitch, but the delegation will also include executive vice president of player personnel Jim Buss and representatives from Time Warner Cable. The Lakers signed a record television contract in 2012 with the cable giant that could be worth $5 billion over 25 years.
The NBA does not have a problem with Lakers broadcast partner Time Warner Cable SportsNet being part of the pitch for Howard, according to a league source. If TWC was to offer further compensation, that would be a violation of league rules. However, simply being present for the sitdown is in no way a breach of league etiquette.
“They could simply be presenting ideas about how they plan to cover Howard and the Lakers in the future,” said the source. “That is allowed.”
The Lakers won’t be the only ones with a television element to their pitch. According to a source familiar with Houston’s meeting with Howard, part of the Rockets’ presentation revolved around TV opportunities for Howard with Comcast SportsNet Houston. The Rockets own more than 30 percent of the network.
The driving force of the Lakers’ talk will undoubtedly be the future they can sell Howard on, particularly a financial one. Per the NBA’s new Collective Bargaining Agreement, the Lakers can offer Howard a longer, richer overall contract (five years, $118 million) than any other team can. Plus, as Bresnahan points out, the Lakers are in position for a shopping spree in the near future:
The Lakers finally get their time with Dwight Howard, meeting with him Tuesday and trying to persuade him to stay with the franchise for five more years.
They will sell themselves as the 16-time NBA champions — how could they not? — and they also subtly will remind him Steve Nash is the only player currently under contract after next season.
As in, there’s a massive shopping spree on the way in a year.