Dwight Howard is one of the big prizes of the 2013 NBA free agency class, so naturally everyone is curious about which team the superstar center is leaning towards signing.
Of course D12 has given no official indication of his plans, and refuses to discuss it outside of vague talk about winning championships and how any franchise he is on can accomplish that.
However, there has been plenty buzz surrounding the big man, as team officials discuss plans to acquire him, and sources close to the situation are leaking out information on Howard’s current line of thinking.
Let’s take a look at some of the hottest rumors and speculation concerning Superman’s free agency options.
Mitch Kupchak Still “Hopeful”
The Los Angeles Lakers general manager recently sat down with Mike Trudell of the Lakers’ official website and talked about his organization’s shot of locking last year’s prized offseason acquisition up to a long-term deal.
Kupchak mentioned that he feels no different about their chances now than he did at the end of the season, when he was “optimistic” and “hopeful” the two parties would reach an agreement.
He hopes that Howard will give the Lakers a shot to convince him to stay before he makes a decision, acknowledging that he’ll be a hot commodity and has earned the right to be courted by other franchises.
The GM seems passionate and truthfully believes his team represents the best for Dwight, saying “I think this is the best city to live in with the best fans in the NBA. There are certain things that you remind him of or talk to him about, and you hope that it plays in your favor.”
In the case that Howard doesn’t re-up in L.A., Kupchak admitted the team has numerous backup plans. Lakers fans are hoping that the club doesn’t have to resort to that, but it’s nice to know that there is a contingency process in place.
Hawks Selling Fans on Howard
In a controversial and possibly punishable action, the Atlanta Hawks attempted to leverage season ticket purchases by mentioning that the possibility of signing both Howard and the other marquee free agent star, Chris Paul.
According to Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, a member of the organization’s ticket-sales department sent out an e-mail with a headline “Hot New Player news: Chris Paul and Dwight Howard.”
The letter stated:
"The buzz around our offseason is more than heating up. With massive cap space, 4 draft picks, and free agency rapidly approaching, we sit in the best position in the NBA. Player interest is skyrocketing as the possibilities of landing Chris Paul & Dwight Howard become more and more of a reality."
While it’s true that Atlanta has two picks in the first-round and two second-round selections this year, and the cap room to ink two players to max contracts, the prospects of netting both CP3 and D12 are still extremely slim
Paul is a good bet to re-sign with the Los Angeles Clippers, even though he’s reportedly angry about being named the reason why Vinny Del Negro didn’t receive a contract extension. Howard is notoriously fickle, but all signs point to him being “lukewarm” to the idea of playing for his hometown Hawks.
According to ESPN, this clever ploy may have violated the NBA’s tampering policy, but the league has yet to issue any fine or dole out a punishment to the club.
Howard’s Short-List Contains Five Teams
Howard he hasn’t come out and officially said it, but the Los Angeles Daily News’ Mark Medina reported that the big man is considering the Lakers, Hawks, Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks and Golden State Warriors this summer.
He’s left the door open to visit and receive more pitches from other organizations, but it doesn’t seem many more will be joining the sweepstakes—as most do not have the cap space or much interest in the center.
July 1 is the first day that contract negotiations can begin, which is a date Howard and his agent—Dan Fegan—should be plenty busy talking with these five clubs. There’s no question Howard will get a max contract, it’s just a matter of the fine print, which club the superstar wants to play for and which city he wants to live in.
It’s going to be a tough decision, as there are plenty of pros and cons to each one of these squads.
In the end, expect it to be a much cleaner and simpler process than the “Dwightmare” that plagued the 2011-12 campaign and culminated in the blockbuster trade that finally landed Howard in L.A.