Los Angeles Lakers Dwight Howard reaches for a rebound next to Golden State Warriors Festus Ezeli during their NBA basketball game in Oakland

Warriors are reportedly trying to dump contracts to create enough cap space to sign Dwight Howard

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When the report surfaced that the Golden State Warriors had made “a real impression” on Dwight Howard during their free agent meeting with the prized big man earlier this week, and had a legitimate chance of landing him, it honestly seemed laughable at best.

The reason, of course, was that given the Warriors’ salary cap situation, there’s no way they’d be able to sign Howard to a max contract without the Lakers helping them by engaging in a sign-and-trade deal, which seemed unlikely given L.A.’s preference to sign Howard themselves.

The Warriors, clearly encouraged by their meeting with Howard and whatever information they’ve received since about his leanings, aren’t waiting around for the Lakers to help them in their quest. The team has already begun the process of trying to unload contracts to create enough salary cap space to sign Howard outright, should he ultimately decide that playing in the Bay area is where his future lies.

From Brian Windhorst and Marc Stein of ESPN.com:

The Golden State Warriors, increasingly convinced they have a legitimate shot at winning the Dwight Howard sweepstakes, have begun aggressively attempting to trade away players to clear the requisite salary-cap space to sign the All-Star center, according to sources with knowledge of the team’s thinking.

… sources say that the Warriors, in an effort to manufacture some financial flexibility to help their chances, have begun calling teams with salary-cap space to try to entice them to take expiring contracts off their books so they can clear a $20 million hole for Howard.

Such a scenario would be challenging, some executives have said, but not impossible. The Warriors have three huge expiring contracts in Andrew Bogut ($14 million), Richard Jefferson ($11 million) and Andris Biedrins ($9 million). According to sources, they have tried to offload all three players this week to cap-room teams.

It would be a longshot to see the Warriors unload three different contracts like that without taking salary back, but as the report says, it isn’t impossible.

What this speaks to more than anything is the fact that the Lakers are not going to do anything to facilitate Howard leaving them to play somewhere else. As has been reported over and over, L.A. would rather let Howard walk than help him get to another team of his choosing, especially one in the same division or even in the Western Conference.

The Warriors, meanwhile, would likely have to include some assets in order for teams to take these expiring deals off of their hands. Harrison Barnes and Klay Thompson are the names that have come up in mythical sign-and-trade scenarios with the Lakers, and one or both of those players would likely need to be sent out of town in order for Golden State to be able to convince another team to help them pave the way for Howard’s arrival.

TNT to cover NBA games with only former players, no traditional play-by-play men

LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 19:  Grant Hill #33 of the Phoenix Suns looks to move the ball as Derek Fisher #2 of the Los Angeles Lakers defends in the first quarter of Game Two of the Western Conference Finals during the 2010 NBA Playoffs at Staples Center on May 19, 2010 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 Harry How/Getty Images)
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NEW YORK (AP) — TNT will use broadcast teams featuring only former players and no traditional play-by-play men during five NBA doubleheaders later this season.

The “Players Only” schedule runs Monday nights from Feb. 27 to March 27 and includes matchups such as Golden State-Oklahoma City on March 20 and Cleveland-San Antonio a week later.

Brent Barry will serve as the primary host of one team with Derek Fisher and Grant Hill, while Greg Anthony partners with Kevin McHale and Richard Hamilton on the other.

Lisa Leslie and Dennis Scott will serve as reporters.

Turner Sports says Thursday that Chris Webber will anchor the studio coverage with Isiah Thomas and Baron Davis, and that additional NBA players will contribute to the five-week program.

James Harden presents fan with game ball on her 100th birthday (video)

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HOUSTON (AP) — James Harden took some time out after the Houston Rockets’ win over the visiting Milwaukee Bucks to give a fan a present on a her 100th birthday.

Video shows Harden signing a ball for the woman and spending a few moments sitting next to her in her courtside seat and posing for pictures Wednesday night.

Harden told ESPN’s Doris Burke in an interview that he told the woman how “blessed” he was to be able to have a chance to meet her.

The Houston guard also put on a good show for the fan during the game, scoring 38 points in a 111-92 victory over the Bucks.

Paul George dunks on DeMarcus Cousins while getting whacked in the face (video)

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Kings center DeMarcus Couins appears set to become the first player to sign as a veteran designated player. The Pacers hope Paul George will follow.

But in the Pacers’ win over the Kings yesterday, George beat Cousins.

Not even Cousins thwacking George in the face could stop this dunk.

Report: Khris Middleton could return to Bucks before All-Star break

CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 16:  Khris Middleton #22 of the Milwaukee Bucks reacts during their game against the Charlotte Hornets at Time Warner Cable Arena on January 16, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. 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 Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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The Bucks projected Khris Middleton to miss about 70 games when he tore his hamstring before the season. That extended absence often leads players just to shut down for the year, but Middleton vowed to return in time for the playoffs.

He might get back far sooner than that.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

Sources told ESPN.com the Bucks think Middleton, who suffered a hamstring tear just days before the season began, “has a chance” to return to the lineup during a three-game homestand next month before the All-Star ‎break.

Whether Middleton ultimately makes his season debut before or after the All-Star Game, he is expected to be kept on a minutes restriction as he eases way his back from the injury, sources said.

The Bucks have started Tony Snell, who has held his own as an outside shooter. But Middleton will upgrade Milwaukee on Snell’s biggest strength and provide massive defensive improvement. After a strong start, the Bucks have really struggled lately on that end.

Giannis Antetokounmpo has led Milwaukee to a 20-21 record, though the team is better than its won-loss mark indicates. The Bucks will be even better with Middleton, who will rival Jabari Parker as their second-best player and fit seamlessly.