Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard has the ability to decline a player option following the conclusion of the 2015-16 season, and speculation regarding his future with the franchise is starting to ramp up.
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Howard Expected to Opt Out
Wednesday, Dec. 16
According to USA Today's Sam Amick, Howard appears headed for free agency when the season comes to a close.
"Howard has a player option for next season worth $23.2 million, but a person with knowledge of the Rockets situation said they are expecting him to opt out and become a free agent," Amick wrote. "The person spoke to USA Today Sports on the condition of anonymity because of the private nature of the situation."
Howard hand-picked Houston when he signed a four-year, $87.6 million deal with the Rockets prior to the 2013-14 season, and he reiterated his commitment to the franchise during the team's current three-game road trip, per Amick:
I chose to go to Houston (via free agency in the summer of 2013), so why would I just say, 'I'm not happy' and leave. I chose this place, you know what I'm saying? And I want to make this thing work here. Obviously we haven't been playing great basketball, and personally for myself my numbers don't seem like I've been playing great, but the only thing on my mind is trying to grow as a man and grow as a teammate and a leader. All the BS that's around, sometimes it is frustrating to hear it, because I know who I am as a man and I know what I'm trying to do for this city.
The Rockets' season started in disappointing fashion, and the team wasted no time firing former head coach Kevin McHale following a 4-7 start. However, Houston has only been marginally better since, going 8-7 with interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff.
Complicating matters is the fact that Howard is averaging just 12.6 points and 11.6 rebounds while attempting a meager 8.3 shots a night.
Considering the salary cap is slated to jump to approximately $90 million next season, per the Associated Press (via ESPN.com), it would make sense for Howard to test the free-agent waters and try to nab one more lucrative long-term deal at 30 years old.