Dwight Howard: Latest News, Rumors, Speculation on Rockets Star's Future

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured Columnist

Houston Rockets' Dwight Howard during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Milwaukee Bucks Monday, Feb. 29, 2016, in Milwaukee. The Bucks won 128-121. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash)
Aaron Gash/Associated Press

Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard can opt out of his current contract and become a free agent following the 2015-16 season. Naturally, there are already rumors surrounding the big man's potential landing spot.

Continue for updates.

Howard Reportedly Expected to Join New Team

Wednesday, April 27

According to Calvin Watkins of ESPN.com, Rockets owner Leslie Alexander and general manager Daryl Morey believe James Harden will have a role in the team's hiring of its next head coach and could even have a hand in free-agency signings, but "Howard is not expected to have a role."

"It's expected that he will become a free agent and seek a new team. Orlando, Milwaukee, Portland and Charlotte are the favorites," Watkins reported.

Mavericks May Pursue Howard This Summer

Thursday, April 7

The Dallas Mavericks might be interested in pursuing Howard this summer, according to Tim MacMahon of ESPN.com. However, it will hinge on the price tag:

Sources says the Mavericks' interest in Dwight Howard as a free agent this summer will be dependent on the price. The Mavs do not intend to be in on the bidding for Howard if it's in the neighborhood of a max contract, which would have a starting salary of more than $30 million. The Mavs made Howard their primary target and offered a max contract in 2013, when the center signed with the Rockets. However, concerns about the 30-year-old Howard's durability and desire have caused the Mavs to decide that he isn't worth a nine-figure investment over four years at this point.

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O'Neal Comments on Potential Howard Return to Orlando

Monday, April 4

"I think it would be good for the city," said Shaquille O'Neal, per Watkins, on Howard potentially returning to play for the Orlando Magic. "First of all, after the first time he left, letting a big young guy get away, it shouldn't happen a second time. All the puzzle [pieces] have to fit."

O'Neal also spoke on Howard's potential fit with the Magic:

If you have respect for one another, I think you have to delete the word differences 'cause business is always going to be business. The DeVos family [which owns the Magic] I have respect for. It can definitely work, as a general manager and owner we're not just going to be bringing people back, we're trying to get to that next level. If that guy can't get us to the next level, then it don't make sense.

Morey Comments on Re-Signing Howard

Tuesday, March 15

Speaking at this weekend's MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, Morey discussed the potential of re-signing Howard, per Matt Dollinger of Sports Illustrated:

During the front office panel, ESPN's Jackie MacMullan, who was moderating, asked Morey about re-signing Dwight Howard. Morey immediately replied: "Uh oh." MacMullan pressed the Rockets GM on negotiations. He responded that the NBA's max salary threshold keeps things simple. MacMullan asked, 'So you're re-signing him?' To which Morey responded: "I just said they had the concept."

Howard Reportedly Interested in Knicks

Tuesday, March 8

Ian Begley of ESPN.com broke down the New York Knicks' strategies for attacking free agency this offseason and mentioned Howard as a potential target:

Along those lines, one name to keep in mind this summer is [Howard].

Some of Howard's friends have let it be known recently that the center would be interested in coming to New York as a free agent if he opts out of his current contract, league sources say.

Whether Jackson and the Knicks would be interested in a player like Howard is another question entirely.

Begley deemed the upcoming offseason an important one for the Knicks because they will likely miss the playoffs for the third straight year if they don't make a late charge.

Begley mentioned president Phil Jackson and his team "will have at least $18 million to spend this offseason on a class that includes Kevin Durant and Al Horford. They will have to spend wisely, because other teams will have more space to use thanks to the rising salary cap." If the Knicks cannot land one of the franchise-altering superstars, Howard may be a solid fallback option.

However, Howard seemed primed to stay in Houston given his December quotes, per Sam Amick of USA Today:

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.

There may be some pull to remain in Houston, but Amick cited a source who expects Howard to opt out of his $23.3 million player option for next season.

The move would make some sense for the 30-year-old who is past his prime and has a history of injury problems. The NBA's salary cap is set to rise (Amick said from $67 million to $89 million by next season), and Howard could land a final monster deal before Father Time makes him more of a role player than a featured spot on a contender.

Howard has experienced an unquestioned drop-off statistically from his prime with the Orlando Magic when he averaged 22.9 points, 14.1 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per night in 2010-11, but he is still a double-double threat every time he steps on the floor:

Dwight Howard Since Leaving Orlando
SeasonTeamGamesPointsReboundsBlocksField-Goal PercentageFree-Throw Percentage
2012-13Los Angeles Lakers7617.112.42.457.849.2
2013-14Houston Rockets7118.312.21.859.154.7
2014-15Houston Rockets4115.810.51.359.352.8
2015-16Houston Rockets5214.9121.56151.5

Despite Howard's solid numbers, this has been a disappointing campaign for the Rockets as a whole after they reached the Western Conference Finals a season ago. They are 31-32 and hanging on to the No. 8 and final seed in the Western Conference playoff picture by 1.5 games over the Utah Jazz as of Tuesday.

There were also reports, such as this one from Chris Sheridan of SheridanHoops.com, in December that Howard was unhappy playing alongside Harden, so it may be an ideal time for the center to look elsewhere if Houston falters in the playoffs.

If that elsewhere truly is New York, it is worth noting Howard also had issues with another superstar teammate before his time in Houston. When Howard was with the Los Angeles Lakers, he often didn't see eye-to-eye with Kobe Bryant, and Watkins wrote the big man's departure in the summer of 2013 "left Bryant and Lakers fans bitter."

One common trait with Harden and Bryant is the fact they are both ball-dominant guards who took some of the spotlight away from Howard. New York's Carmelo Anthony fits that bill as well considering he has averaged more than 18 shots per game every season since 2004-05 when he was with the Denver Nuggets.

Howard was the go-to option with the Magic in his prime, but he hasn't seemed to find the right chemistry with a fellow superstar since moving on from Orlando. Perhaps the 31-year-old Anthony would be the first one to strike a winning balance with Howard since they are both on the wrong side of their 30th birthday and searching for an elusive championship.

Despite the surrounding drama and the injuries that limited Howard to 41 games in 2014-15 and have stifled his effectiveness in Houston, he is still an eight-time All-Star and three-time Defensive Player of the Year. He could form a solid trio with Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis for the next few seasons in New York if he chooses to sign with the Knicks.

What's more, the Eastern Conference is not loaded with teams primed to dominate in the upcoming years. Chris Mannix of The Vertical reported there are chemistry problems in Cleveland, and the injury-riddled Chicago Bulls are in disarray this season and barely hanging on to a playoff spot.

New York could be one big man away from making a postseason run.

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