Dwight Howard kicked off the official start to his NBA free agency by meeting with the Houston Rockets. Of course, that was after Los Angeles Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak met with Howard on both Saturday and minutes before he met with the Rockets Sunday night. Regardless, the Houston group left feeling positive about their meeting with the superstar big man, reports Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle.
The group spent two-and-a-half hours discussing the potential of Howard signing his name with the Rockets. The Rockets presentation group included Hakeem Olajuwon, Clydre Drexler, Kevin McHale, James Harden, Chandler Parsons, Daryl Morey, owner Leslie Alexander, president Tad Brown, vice president and athletic trainer Keith Jones, executive vice president Gersson Rosas and Yao Ming (via Skype). Much of the presentation revolved around the talk of capturing championships and how Houston would re-build their offense around Howard's presence.
Howard also inquired about the Rockets' flexibility to land another max-level superstar this Summer. The Rockets had to cut down salary to reach the floor of offering Howard a max-contract and currently sit at $42 million in guaranteed salary. The Rockets are said to be shopping both Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik, but even if they manage to dump both players for no incoming salary (which could be a challenge on it's own), Houston would only have roughly $10 million to offer another player.
The Atlanta Hawks could assist the Rockets in that area, however. They are said to be interested in Asik if Howard lands in Houston, and could sign-and-trade Josh Smith in exchange for his services. This would land Howard's long-time friend in Texas and could be an answer to Howard's "other" max contract question.
The Houston group left an iPad and books containing information for Howard and his representatives, video testimonials, a discussion of how the Rockets are the best personnel fit and Dikembe Mutombo was included in a video presentation, reports Feigen.
The Rockets also pitched that their locker room will welcome him and discussed the immediate team chemistry that could be built between the franchise "superstars." McHale also made it clear to Howard that he would be held accountable in the Rockets pursuit of a title as he would rebuild the Rockets' "system" around him. The Rockets believe McHale's experience as professional basketball player -- particularly as a frontcourt presence -- is an asset other teams do not have, according to Adrian Wojnarwoski of Yahoo! Sports.
Houston walked away confident and will move forward in free agency with a focus on finding pieces to build around Howard as if he will be signed. They are scheduled to meet both Corey Brewer and Mike Dunleavy, according to Feigen.
Howard meets with the Golden State Warriors and Hawks on Monday.
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