Dwight Howard reportedly adds Hawks and Warriors to his free agent list

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As the Dwight Howard free agency news cycle rolls on, the latest report has him expanding the list of teams he’ll consider signing with this summer.

It’s been previously reported that Howard is most intrigued by the Houston Rockets, thanks in no small part to a young star already in place there in the form of James Harden. Any situation where Howard won’t be the team’s best player is one he’s likely to consider — not only because it will mean he’s on a team that can contend for a championship, but also because Howard isn’t well-suited from a personality standpoint to handle the pressure of winning all by himself.

Another team that makes sense for Howard to pursue is the Dallas Mavericks, for some of the same reasons. Dirk Nowitzki still has a couple of All-Star caliber seasons left in him, and with the pay cut he’ll be taking in his next contract, the Mavs would have a ton of salary cap space to go out and sign even more top talent for the 2014-15 season and beyond.

Houston and Dallas were obvious choices, given the existing talent and salary cap situations of those respective teams. The latest two that Howard has reportedly expressed interest in, however, seem a little less realistic.

From Mark Medina of the Long Beach Press-Telegram:

A source familiar with Howard’s thinking says he plans to test free agency and has considered the Lakers, Dallas, Houston, Atlanta and Golden State.

Nothing remains binding, though. The source added Howard’s main concern involves “what team he feels has the best chance to win championships, has the best team and system around him.” The source also stressed Howard has not and will not ask the Lakers to make any moves on his behalf.

Howard is from Atlanta, but it has been a constant from his camp since his last season in Orlando that he wasn’t interested in playing for his hometown team. If that has changed and Howard is now truly considering the Hawks, they certainly have the cap space to make it happen, with less than $20 million on the books for next season if they exercise all options. That includes having Al Horford in place at $12 million per year for the next three seasons.

That would give Atlanta the chance to bring in plenty of additional talent besides Howard, but it’s also a team currently without much of an identity, and one that’s likely to begin next season with a new head coach.

As for the Warriors, that’s simply not going to happen. Golden State has close to $75 million in committed contracts for next season, including the one-year player options from Richard Jefferson and Andris Biedrins that are likely to be exercised. Things clear up considerably for the Warriors the following year, when the contract of Andrew Bogut comes off the books and the team would have in the neighborhood of just $25 million committed to the strong core of Stephen Curry, David Lee, Klay Thompson, and Harrison Barnes.

It would be tough to see Howard signing somewhere for one year just to wait out the opportunity with the Warriors, although with his track record of indecisiveness throughout this process dating back to his final season in Orlando, anything is possible.

Still, the smart money remains on him staying with the Lakers, with the Rockets and the Mavericks likely not too far behind on his list of potential destinations.

Warriors hope to get Shaun Livingston, Matt Barnes back for second round

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — The Golden State Warriors hope to get injured reserves Shaun Livingston and Matt Barnes back from injuries for the second round of the playoffs after getting more than a week off between series.

The Warriors said Saturday that Barnes has been upgraded to probable for Tuesday night’s Game 1 and Livingston remains questionable but is hopeful he will be ready to return. Star forward Kevin Durant is expected to be a full go after missing two games and being limited to 20 minutes in Game 4 last round because of a strained left calf.

Barnes has been sidelined since April 8, while Livingston sprained a finger on his right hand in Game 1 of the first-round against Portland.

Golden State begins the second round at home on Tuesday night against the winner of Sunday’s Game 7 between the Los Angeles Clippers and Utah Jazz. The Warriors have been off since sweeping the Trail Blazers last Monday, giving them more than a week between games.

“I’m trying to make sure I rest it as much as I possibly can, because when I do come back I plan on staying all the way back,” Livingston said Saturday. “Hopefully it will be ready for Tuesday.”

After taking Tuesday and Thursday off following their first-round sweep, the Warriors practiced for a second straight day Saturday. They plan to practice again on Sunday and then again Monday once they know their second-round opponent.

There is no update on the status of coach Steve Kerr, who missed the final two games of the first round because of complications from two back surgeries. Kerr talks daily with interim coach Mike Brown and took part in coaching meetings Friday but was not at practice on Saturday.

PBT Extra: Rockets vs. Spurs far more than Kawhi Leonard vs. James Harden

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Kawhi Leonard vs. James Harden. Two MVP candidates matching up in the second round of the NBA playoffs.

However, the San Antonio Spurs vs. Houston Rockets is much more than that.

It’s a battle of pace. It’s a chess match between two of the best coaches in the game. It’s about which team’s role players are going to step up.

I talk about all of that in this latest PBT Extra. Plus, of course, when Leonard will guard Harden.

How to start your Saturday night: Watching 15 minutes of best plays from NBA season

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There are no NBA playoff games Saturday night, the first night since the start of the postseason there hasn’t been one game. Don’t worry, there are two games on Sunday, including Game 7 between the Jazz and Clippers.

But if you need a Saturday night fix, this will have to do: 15 minutes of the best plays from last season, as compiled by NBA.com.

Go ahead, watch it. You’ve got nothing better to do.

 

Paul Millsap says the expected, he will “most likely” opt out of contract

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This is ranked right next to “overeating can lead to weight gain” on the list of surprising things, but we will dutifully report it anyway:

Paul Millsap is going to opt out and officially become a free agent this summer.

Atlanta’s owner as well as Mike Budenholzer, the coach and head of basketball operations, have both said they plan to do whatever it takes to re-sign Millsap with the Hawks. Millsap didn’t sound like someone eager to leave after the Hawks were eliminated from the playoffs Friday.

“It’s been great. I’m looking to expand this and see where the franchise can go. These last four years has been great. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”

Even with both sides singing Kumbaya, keeping Millsap in Atlanta likely means a five-year contract at or near the max, which for a 32-year-old player means the Hawks would regret the last year or two of that deal.

Not that the Hawks have much of a choice here, they have to come in big and keep him. For one, they can’t afford to lose Al Horford and then Millsap for nothing in back-to-back years. If they were going down the rebuilding road, they needed to trade Millsap at the deadline (or last summer) to make sure they got something in return. Atlanta explored trade options at the deadline, but then pulled back (rumored to be because of an edict from ownership, which didn’t want to see the team blown up after the Kyle Korver trade).

By not making that trade the Hawks signaled their intention to remain a good team — a 43-win team this season that got them the five seed — with Dennis Schroder and Dwight Howard, one that draws well at an arena that historically has not been that full, and see if they can add on. They strike me as a team that will win between 42-50 games a year and be middle of the pack in the East for the next few years, unless they can find a way to add an elite player (which is incredibly difficult).

But if the Hawks can’t re-sign Millsap, then the plan gets blown up. So expect them to come in with a big offer come July 1.