Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard speaks during a press conference at the Lakers practice facility in El Segundo, California

Rockets to get first free agent meeting with Dwight Howard

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Once the free agency period officially opens after midnight Eastern on July 1, the most coveted player on the market will be with one of the teams he is strongly considering signing a max contract with for the next four years.

That meeting has been set, and the team that will get the first crack at making its sales pitch to Dwight Howard is the Houston Rockets.

According to multiple reports, a group from the Rockets will have dinner with Howard Sunday night in Los Angeles, after which the official presentation will be made.

CSN Houston has confirmed some of the details as to who will be in attendance.

The group will include the following: CEO Tad Brown, GM Daryl Morey, Hakeem Olajuwon, Clyde Drexler and Chandler Parsons.

Rockets owner Leslie Alexander is also expected to be in attendance, as is James Harden, reports Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle.

Howard is expected to meet with at least four teams other than the Lakers during free agency — the Rockets, Mavericks, Warriors, and Hawks.

ESPN’s Chris Broussard reports that Dallas will meet with Howard on Tuesday (with Mark Cuban and Dirk Nowitzki representing), while Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports reports that the Warriors will also meet with Howard in Los Angeles next week.

The Golden State contingent will include owner Joe Lacob, GM Bob Myers and head coach Mark Jackson, but unless they plan on convincing Dwight to sign with the Warriors for far, far less than the max contract he can command, the meeting will be for show more than anything else.

Even if Howard were to ultimately decide on the Warriors, the Lakers would have to be convinced to sign and trade him for that make any sense for him financially. And for a variety of reasons, that’s not going to happen.

As a reminder, Howard will leave an extra contract year and around $30 million on the table if he decides to leave the Lakers. Houston and Dallas are considered the frontrunners for where Howard would end up should he ultimately make that decision.

Gordon Hayward dunks on Giannis Antetokounmpo, Thon Maker (videos)

Gordon Hayward (20), del Jazz de Utah, intenta un enceste ante Thon Maker (7) y Michael Beasley (9), de los Bucks de Milwaukee, en el duelo del viernes 24 de febrero de 2017, en Milwaukee. (AP Foto/Benny Sieu)
AP Foto/Benny Sieu
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Are we obligated to call Gordon Hayward “deceptively athletic”?

The Bucks have something special in Giannis Antetokounmpo, and they think they have something special in Thon Maker.

But Hayward jammed all over those two in the Jazz’s 109-95 win last night.

First, he got Antetokounmpo:

Then, he got Maker:

Report: Lakers working toward buyout with Jose Calderon; Warriors, Rockets interested

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 18:  Jose Calderon #5 of the Los Angeles Lakers reacts to a called foul during the second half of a game against the San Antonio Spurs at Staples Center on November 18, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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The Lakers took on the salary of Jose Calderon this year so they could get a couple second-round picks from the Bulls (Chicago got him from New York in the Derrick Rose trade), but even with the previous regime in Los Angeles the aging point guard was never part of the future.

As was expected, the Lakers are now talking about buying out the Spanish national and letting him head to a playoff team for a stretch run, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.

Sources told ESPN that it’s not yet a certainty Calderon will secure his release from the Lakers in the coming days, but the sides are indeed discussing the options as Wednesday’s playoff eligibility deadline nears….

Sources say that Calderon, if he winds up hitting the open market, would instantly become a target for both the Golden State Warriors and the Houston Rockets.

Cleveland may also have interest if their plan to land Deron Williams when he is bought out by Dallas goes awry.

Calderon, 35, was not part of the Lakers’ regular rotation, playing in just 24 games. He can still knock down a shot if he has space and can set his feet, and he still has a high hoops IQ and can see the floor, but his athleticism has faded, and that can leave him exposed. Particularly on defense.

Players are being waived now so they clear in time for teams to sign them by March 1, after that said players are not eligible for playoff rosters.

There are better players to hit the waiver wire in the coming days — D-Will, Andrew Bogut, Matt Barnes — but Calderon is going to land somewhere. He’d be a solid third point guard and veteran presence for a playoff run.

Marquese Chriss blocks Bobby Portis, who gets testy (video)

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Bobby Portis didn’t enjoy getting blocked by Marquese Chriss. And Portis sure didn’t appreciate how Chriss fell on him.

But it was all worth it (for me, at least) just to see the Bulls forward make a face that reminded me of this:

Dwyane Wade with dagger dunk to seal Bulls win vs. Suns (VIDEO)

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The time off during the All-Star break did Dwyane Wade some good.

The Bulls guard turned back the clock on Friday night, leading the Bulls with 23 points and topping it off with this dunk that proved to be the dagger, sealing a Chicago win. The Suns were convinced Wade was going to run the shot clock way down before making his move and they lollygagged into position — so he just blew past everyone for the poster slam.

The Bulls won 128-121. Devin Booker led the Suns with 27.