Houston Rockets May Be Dwight Howard’s L.A. Escape Pod

The Clippers and Lakers face similar predicaments this offseason. The Lakers have an All-Star free agent in center Dwight Howard. The Clippers are in better standing with free agent point guard Chris Paul, but the fact remains that he could potentially wear another uniform next season if he so chooses. The Clippers have been more productive this summer and yesterday, they used Doc Rivers as their conduit to Chris Paul. His message was simple and succinct. Stay and win.

The Lakers sent a weaker message to Howard via a gaudy banner outside Staples Center. In the past, those 16 championship banners hanging in the rafters were enough to do the trick. That was during the Jerry Buss era, back when the franchise was led by a competent CEO/owner who turned the franchise into one of the most respected in professional sports.

His son has destroyed the cache his father spent three decades building in just a few months at the helm. Unlike his father, Jim wasn’t as big a fan of Phil Jackson as his father or sister. Instead, he hired Mike D’Antoni to replace Mike Brown last November. That may have been the nail in the coffin for Howard’s Laker future. Allegedly, Howard isn’t feeling Mike D’Antoni’s coaching or his system. Those rumors have circulated all season and that’s understandable. He can get in line with Amar’e Stoudemire, Shawn Marion, Carmelo Anthony and Knicks management.

Meanwhile, the organization is committed to retaining D’Antoni for next season. That’s right; we live in a world where James Dolan recognizes that D’Antoni is a pedestrian coach and Donald Sterling is making better offseason decisions than the prestigious franchise across the hall.

Last summer, Howard kept the Houston Rockets at arm's length and was keen on joining the Lakers. One year later, the vacillating wonder that is Howard may be ready to embrace the Rockets and leave L.A. in his rearview mirror.

According to ESPN’s Chris Broussard, there’s a better chance of Christmas snow in California than of Howard re-signing with the Lakers for an extra $30 million.


Howard is willing to forgo the extra $30 million the Lakers can pay him to play for a coach and in a system he feels will better use his skill set, one source said.

The Lakers can offer Howard a five-year, $118 million contract, while other teams can pay him only $88 million over four years.

Howard plans to meet with Dallas, Houston and Atlanta before meeting with the Lakers once teams are allowed to contact free agents beginning July 1, a source said. It appears that the teams will visit Howard in Los Angeles.

A source close to the All-Star center told ESPNLosAngeles.com that Howard expects to be ready to choose his team as soon as the NBA's moratorium on new business is lifted on July 10.

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