Houston Rockets Patrick Beverly attempts to steal the ball from Los Angeles Lakers Dwight Howard during their NBA basketball game in Los Angeles

Rockets don’t have enough cap room to give Dwight Howard a max contract

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The Rockets do not have enough cap room to give Dwight Howard a max contract.

They could waive all four of their players with fully unguaranteed contracts – Greg Smith, Patrick Beverley,Tim Ohlbrecht and James Anderson – and they still wouldn’t have enough cap room.

If Howard chooses Houston, perhaps as early as today, the Rockets will either have to convince him to take less money or do some wheeling and dealing.

Howard’s contract can start at $20,513,178 next season, regardless of which team signs him, and it wouldn’t be difficult for the Rockets to clear that much cap room. Waiving Greg Smith, Patrick Beverley,Tim Ohlbrecht and James Anderson and using the stretch provision on Royce White would do the trick. That seems less than ideal, but if it meant getting Howard, I’m sure Darryl Morey would do it in a heartbeat.

However, Howard can’t officially sign until July 10. So, if he commits to the Rockets before then, they’d have a little time to clear space.

Dumping Ohlbrecht and Anderson probably wouldn’t be an issue, but Smith and Beverly have value. Houston could trade any two-man combination of Smith, Beverly, White, Terrence Jonesand Donatas Motiejunas except Beverly-Smith and Beverly-Motiejunas for future draft picks or unsigned second rounders, and that would clear enough room to give Howard a max contract.

Bigger moves – perhaps involving Jeremy Lin and/or Omer Asik – are also possible, but trading two lesser-paid players is probably the simplest route to getting Howard his max contract.

Of course, if Howard picks the Rockets, he’ll certainly talk about Houston’s chances to win a championship. Would he give up money to increase those odds? Beverly, Smith and even White could contribute to a winning team.

If the Rockets waive only Ohlbrecht and Anderson, they could still offer Howard a four-year, $87,591,270 contract. With his full maximum from a team besides the Lakers, Howard could get $82,059,635 – so he’d be sacrificing $5,531,635.

Still, that would be minimal compared to the at least $28,821,015 he’d be giving up by signing with any team besides the Lakers, who can offer larger annual raises and a fifth guaranteed season.*

*I think it’s slightly disingenuous to compare the amount Howard would be losing by leaving Los Angeles in terms of five versus four years. Though there’s certainly no guarantee, it’s likely Howard can get another max contract after this one. So, if he leaves the Lakers and gets max contracts both this summer and following this one, he’d be giving up just $4,374,435 during the next five years.

Anyway, back to the present. If Howard agrees to sign with the Rockets, that means at least one of two things: He’s taking less than a maximum contract and/or Houston has more moves in store.

Aaron Gordon both legs over the mascot, ball-under-the-legs dunk (VIDEO)

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TORONTO — Zach LaVine won the NBA All-Star Saturday Dunk Contest, but in an epic night for my money this was the single best dunk.

Orlando’s Aaron Gordon broke ground with this one — guys have jumped over mascots and other players before (and a Kia hood), but by splitting their legs apart. Gordon just put both legs over Stuff (that’s the mascot’s name, Stuff the Magic Dragon, I don’t make this up) — and took the ball off the mascot’s head, went under his legs, and threw it down.

Insane.

Gordon deserved a trophy for his performance in this dunk contest.

Zach LaVine edges Aaron Gordon in epic, insane Dunk Contest

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TORONTO — That. Was. Amazing.

In a dunk contest that will go down with the all-time greats — Jordan vs. Dominique, Dr. J from the free throw line — Minnesota’s Zach LaVine defended his dunk contest title. Barely. Because Orlando’s Aaron Gordon was doing dunks nobody had ever seen before.

And LaVine was bringing it just as hard.

The two men advanced to the finals — dismissing Will Barton and Andre Drummond, each of whom had good dunks — and that was when it got wild.

There were four second-round dunks, and four perfect scores of 50. (That was in spite of Shaq, who wanted to give nines for second attempts.)

“I was prepared for four (second round dunks),” LaVine said. “To tell the truth, he came with something that no one else has done. He did two dunks that were just crazy with the mascots, jumping over them. We just kept pushing each other until the last dunk. I’ve got to give it up to my boy Will “The Thrill” Barton. It’s because of him I think I won. Because he said try to go from the free-throw line. I’d never done that before, and I just tried it. So I guess it was a great dunk. I think it was the best one ever.”

The Air Canada Centre crowd was exploding with every dunk. The two men went to a dunk-off — and got two more 50s.

“If I knew it was going to be like that, I would have prepared better and we would have been here dunking all night, going back 50 after 50 after 50 after 50,” Gordon said. “We would have been here all night. I didn’t know it was going to be like that. I was just hoping Zach was going to miss, and it wasn’t going to happen. You could see as my facial expressions when Zach dunks it, it’s like okay, that’s a 50. Like I know we’re going to have to dunk again.”

So they went to a second-round of overtime, where LaVine put up another 50 and won the contest.

Gordon was close to perfect.

Zach LaVine can flat-out fly.

Magic’s Aaron Gordon with the over-the-mascot mad dunk

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TORONTO — Aaron Gordon was giving Zach LaVine all he could handle in the Dunk Contest.

He blew the lid off the Air Canada Centre with this dunk in the first round — and it wasn’t even his best dunk of the night. Never seen this before.

This dunk contest was awesome, so much more video to come.

Zach LaVine opens Slam Dunk Contest title defense with spectacular behind-the-back slam (VIDEO)

during the BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge 2016 at Air Canada Centre on February 12, 2016 in Toronto, Canada. 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.
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TORONTO — Zach LaVine clearly heard all the talk that Aaron Gordon or Will Barton had a chance to upset him in the Slam Dunk Contest. He came out ready to prove his superiority right off the bat. This behind-the-back slam was his first attempt of the night:

Even better was the reaction, both from Andre Drummond and from LaVine’s Minnesota teammates: