via Sam Amick
Somewhere in Aspen, Colo., in that undisclosed location where Dwight Howard escaped to clear his head and make up his mind, the truth will emerge.
The big man who has stolen the spotlight for so long will finally decide his fate, be it to join the Houston Rockets, Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Lakers or… No, let’s stop there. The Dallas Mavericks and Atlanta Hawks are among the teams dying to know as well, of course, but the events of the last 24 hours have sent strong signs that their respective candidacy has likely come to an end.
Elsewhere, however, chaos ensues. According to a person with knowledge of the situation, the Warriors have been given indications within the last day that the Houston Rockets are the strong favorite to land Howard. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the private nature of the talks.
The backdrop that surrounds the Warriors, however, tells a different tale. Having been given the impression in recent days that they were in Howard’s top three, with the Rockets and Lakers likely the other two, the Warriors went to work attempting to clear salary cap space with a vision in mind that’s even grander than one what was initially assumed.
The notion of clearing space to sign Howard outright isn’t the only plan in play, as free agent small forward Andre Iguodala has serious interest in joining the Warriors even without Howard. He has been seen as a possible cherry on top of their recruiting efforts to get the big man.
It’s their version of the Rockets’ plan that is also in play, with free agent forward Josh Smith considered the third star in the sort of scenario that both teams hope could win his affection.
If they could convince a team to take the contracts of Andris Biedrins and Richard Jefferson (a combined $20 million in expiring salaries next season), Iguodala could be signed and possibly tip the scales on Howard’s decision.
Should he pick them, they would then do a sign-and-trade with a Lakers team that would face the prospect of losing him for nothing if they don’t cooperate with the Warriors and, hypothetically speaking, see Howard head to Houston instead. The timing factor in play here is beyond problematic at this point, as Howard’s decision was widely expected to come today and the Warriors have yet to find a new home for those players.
But this much is clear: Iguodala remains a possibility only if those deals can be made, as his former Denver Nuggets team strongly rebuffed the idea of cooperating in a sign-and-trade with a Warriors team that upset them in the first round of the playoffs, and the Rockets are clearly worried about the threat the Warriors pose to land Howard.
All signs point to that fear being unfounded at this point. And should the Rockets win these sweepstakes as has been expected for so long, the Warriors will go down as the team that pushed its way into the top three after Houston and the Lakers were running a two-horse race.
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