The Los Angeles Lakers are in trouble. So are the Houston Rockets. And the Atlanta Hawks and Golden State Warriors may no longer have a chance.
The Dallas Mavericks have emerged as front-runners in the Dwight Howard sweepstakes.
That's the only conclusion we're left to draw after Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News (h/t CBS Sports) wrote that Dallas-Fort Worth-area Raising Cane’s restaurants are prepared to load Howard up with protein for the rest of his life—for free:
As the wooing of Dwight Howard officially begins, Dallas-Fort Worth-area Raising Cane’s restaurants are offering free-agent center Howard food for thought – for the rest of his life.
On Monday, Raising Cane’s will kick off a campaign inviting Mavericks fans to help persuade Howard to sign with Dallas. The company has leased six electronic billboards to help publicize its cooked-up offer to Howard.
Raising Cane’s marketing manager Adam Reed says that if Howard signs with the Mavericks, “he will be welcome to come by any of our (20) local restaurants to enjoy seriously delicious chicken fingers at any time, on us, for the rest of his life.”
Howard's first thought: Where do I sign?
Free chicken fingers are no joke. They're delicious, and also expensive. At least, over the course of Howard's life they would be.
Townsend posits that if Superman were to hit the drive-through once a day for the rest of his life, Raising Cane's would be on the hook for anywhere between $192,628 and $530,621 worth of chicken. That's quite the signing bonus.
A cursory once-over of Larry Coon's CBA FAQ reveals that there is nothing against fast-food joints offering lucratively edible incentives to other teams' players before the NBA's free-agency period officially begins. So neither Raising Cane's nor Mark Cuban should be fined for tampering.
Instead, the rest of Howard's suitors must now scramble in every direction, searching for a way to match this incredible negotiating ploy.
Perhaps the Lakers could offer Dwight the opportunity to chase championships and taste the rainbow, bestowing upon him a lifetime supply of Skittles.
Maybe the Hawks can appeal to Howard by landing him an endorsement with the pizzeria of his choosing, as he once revealed those slices of heaven were his favorite food.
And if I'm analytics guru Daryl Morey, I'm poring over video footage of Howard's chocolate-chip cookie talents and getting Nestle Toll House to roll out the red carpet before the league's moratorium period is lifted.
Which team will Dwight Howard sign with?
The rest of his suitors could also keep it simple. Free chicken is already the standard: All they have to do is find a restaurant willing to match and get it to toss in unlimited dipping sauces.
I can't tell you how many free-agency coups I suspect have been decided by an extra cup of ranch or another meal-time dressing. Though each member of the Miami Heat's Big Three took a (slight) pay cut in 2010, I'm convinced there was an never-ending supply of honey mustard involved to help offset the monetary difference.
In related news, I'm starving.
Please excuse me while I go work on my jump shot in hopes of one day making it to the NBA and being compensated with an ever-replenishing reservoir of deep-fried poultry.