Eight-time All-Star center Dwight Howard has opted out of his contract with the Houston Rockets, as many expected.
The 2004 number one draft pick had a player option in his Rockets deal that if he had decided to have ignored would have seen him earn $23.2 million next term. Instead, Howard is looking to shop himself about on the open market and could potentially make more than that with the salary cap increase.
Citing sources, Calvin Watkins of ESPN has suggested that the Rockets did everything in their power to persuade their starting pivot to stay before Howard ultimately reached his decision.
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The report said: "Before Dwight Howard decided to decline his $23.2 million player option, Houston Rockets officials tried to convince him to remain with the team, according to a source.
"Rockets general manager Daryl Morey spoke with Howard's agent Perry Rogers, and team CEO Tad Brown talked to Howard himself in expressing his support as well.
"The team values Howard's defensive abilities and his potential on the offensive end in a new scheme under recently hired coach Mike D'Antoni."
In reality, that last point might be as crucial as Howard's reportedly tempestuous relationship with leading man James Harden, despite efforts from both men to dismiss those rumours.
Howard endured a very disappointing season the last time he was led by D'Antoni in the Purple and Gold of the L.A. Lakers. It would appear that Howard has no interest in playing in a D'Antoni built system again and prior to his arrival, Morey had already told Howard they didn't want him involved on offence.
Howard clearly does want to be involved, though. There will be a queue of franchises willing to take a chance on the 30-year-old talent who has averaged a double-double in rebounds and points in every one of his 12 seasons in the NBA.
According to the report, a max-contract could mean as much as $30 million to some stars next season and Howard will certainly want a bit of that cash before his prime passes him by. This is probably his final opportunity at a long, lucrative contract and he has every right to test the waters around the league.
For Houston, with Howard off the books they stand to gain $45 million in cap space that could be valuable in attracting free agents. They still have a cornerstone in Harden, finding a complimentary piece is proving harder than they would have liked, though.
Last month rumours began circulating that the Rockets will target Al Horford of the Atlanta Hawks if Howard was to leave. Interestingly, Howard is Atlanta-born; could a little switch be on the cards?