For most of the season, the talk of the NBA has been the struggles of Dwight Howard and the Los Angeles Lakers. For the past week or so, however—and with the NBA trade deadline on Thursday—much of the chatter has turned to Josh Smith of the Atlanta Hawks, who seems sure to be traded.
Here, we're going to collect all of those rumors for you in one big speculation dump.
One player likely wants out. The other probably is out. Both are the subjects of a whole slew of rumors this week. Let's break those down.
Dwight Howard, Los Angeles Lakers
The Los Angeles Lakers are still in contention to reach the playoffs and make a championship run. It's crazy, but not unlikely, and you know Kobe Bryant will do everything in his power to make sure it happens.
If it happens without Dwight Howard on the team, he'll apparently be OK with that, too.
From Sam Amico of FOX Sports:
Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak has strongly nixed the notion that Howard could be moved prior to Thursday's trading deadline. But if Kupchak changes his mind, he'd have Bryant's full support, according to sources.
Amico's report goes on to note:
But sources say Bryant also wonders if Howard has the right approach, mental toughness and overall willingness to help the Lakers flourish in what has become their most important stretch.
Bryant is not alone in his concern, sources say. [Steve] Nash, Pau Gasol and several others also seem fairly uneasy about Howard's commitment to the cause.
According to sources, a number of Lakers have their doubts about whether Howard takes the game seriously and "wants it" enough for the challenges the team now faces.
Of course, it likely isn't just Kobe that is unhappy with the current makeup of the team, as Chris Palmer of ESPN notes:
It's hard to tell if Palmer is cryptically passing along some inside information there or simply using common sense and speculating what we all seem to know at this point.
But at this point, would it even make sense for Howard to sign a long-term extension with the Lakers?
In Los Angeles, he'll never get to the be the center of attention, center of the offense, a fun-loving guy that, you know, wins when he wins but, hey, let's just have fun, okay? Not with Kobe around. Not with the history of the Lakers to live up to.
In LA, its all about business on the court. That sentiment is ironic in the entertainment capital of the world for sure. You can be a big personality like a Magic Johnson or Shaquille O'Neal, but you have to win first. Until Howard wins a title, his fun-loving personality seems more a distraction.
And it certainly doesn't fit on the Lakers.
Josh Smith, Atlanta Hawks
We start with Ken Berger of CBS, who notes that the market for Smith may have actually cooled a bit (despite all of the rumors to follow):
The Hawks are believed to be seeking a combination of expiring contracts, young players and draft picks in exchange for Smith, whose expressed desire for a five-year, approximately $90 million max contract has cooled the market for him. Rival executives continue to believe that the Suns have been aggressive in their pursuit of Smith and other trades.
And let's not forget about the Milwaukee Bucks in this, Berger notes:
Milwaukee has to decide whether it will make prospective restricted free agent Brandon Jennings available, though sources say the Bucks like their chances of being able to match any offer sheet this summer; their books are relatively clean after this season. If Milwaukee gets involved in discussion of a larger deal involving Smith or one of their own starting guards, Jennings or Monta Ellis, one valuable piece who could be added to the mix is Luc Mbah a Moute.
Stein also compiled a whole bevy of rumors on Smith at ESPN.com. Will the Brooklyn Nets be involved in the Smith sweepstakes?
One team close to the situation consulted Monday night predicted that the Nets would ultimately land Smith via a three-way trade after ESPN's Chris Broussard reported Feb. 11 that Smith is a prime Brooklyn Nets trade target.
While you can't rule out the Boston Celtics making a push for Smith, a deal seems unlikely given what it would it would probably cost the Celtics. From Stein:
NBA front-office sources told ESPN.com on Monday that the Boston Celtics have, indeed, registered their interest on the Smith front, with the caveat that they also remain highly interested in the Clippers' Eric Bledsoe.
Yet a Boston deal for Smith, sources said, would almost certainly have to be built around Paul Pierce, because Kevin Garnett isn't waiving his no-trade clause to go to the Atlanta Hawks if he's not willing to waive it to go to Clipperland.
Might the Houston Rockets make a push for Smith? Stein doesn't think so, noting "The consistent word out of Houston, incidentally, is that the Rockets—long known to be Smith fans—are far more likely to pursue J-Smoove in free agency than to try to trade for him this week."
Might the Hawks be interested in dealing with the Philadelphia 76ers? According to John N. Mitchell of The Philadelphia Inquirer, Atlanta has made overtures:
According to a pair of league sources with knowledge of the discussions, the Atlanta Hawks approached the Sixers seeking to acquire Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes in exchange for forward Josh Smith. Smith will be an unrestricted free agent this summer.
Still, it's hard to see the Sixers going into the summer looking to re-sign both Smith and Andrew Bynum, two players who will be gunning for max deals.
Finally, the Washington Wizards—yes, the Wizards—have apparently joined the fray, according to Chris Broussard of ESPN:
This is my impression of the Wizards right now. "Oh, hey Atlanta. Yeah, we're interested in Josh Smith, but we don't want to give up one of our three appealing players. You can have anyone else you want, though! Oh, not interested? Fine, suit yourselves."
At this point, it seems Smith is all but gone. When there are rumors buzzing around you from nearly half the league, it's likely you're going to get dealt.
What will be interesting is seeing if a contender makes a move for him or if a team hungry for a star and willing to approach max money to secure him will bring him aboard. By the passing of Thursday's trade deadline, it will be shocking if he is still in Atlanta.