Kurt Helin

at ORACLE Arena on February 9, 2016 in Oakland, 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.
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Will Dwight Howard return to Houston Rockets next summer?

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You can spin how hard they were looking to make a move depending on your motives, but the Houston Rockets were undoubtedly open to moving Dwight Howard at the trade deadline. It didn’t happen. Because Daryl Morey wanted a first-round pick (not late in the round) and a good player back. And because no team was going to give that up for Howard because he can be a free agent this summer (the only reasons to land him now was to put a team over the top into contention, or because they want to offer him a fifth year in free agency, no teams fit those categories).

This summer, Dwight Howard will opt out of his contract and become a free agent.

Then what? He might come back to the Rockets, suggests Jonathan Feigen at the Houston Chronicle.

“Dwight’s a great player,” Morey said after the deadline on Thursday. “He wants to be in Houston. We want him to be in Houston. I was disappointed some things got out rumor-wise, but all those things were myself doing diligence. That’s part of my job…”

In keeping with their usual free-agent strategies, the Rockets plan is to chase the summer’s top free agent, Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant, using the chance to play with two top-echelon players as the heart of the pitch they hope to make.

James Harden, Durant’s former Thunder teammate, would be one of those stars. Depending on what it would cost to keep him, the Rockets still believe Howard could be the other.

The odds of Houston landing Durant in free agency are long. Not impossible, but long. KD wants to win now, he’s on a very good team in Oklahoma City and is, at least, thinking about a jump to Golden State. Durant loved playing with Harden, but in a win-now scenario is Durant better off in Houston then with those other two options?

But the fact the Rockets might keep Howard is worth noting.

The market for Howard this summer will be interesting. He wants a max contract, which for him after 10 years in the league will start around $30 million a season. That’s a lot of scratch, more than some teams are willing to pay. But what worries teams more than the money is the years — Howard is 30 now, has battled back and shoulder issues, and would be 35 at the end of his next contract. The Rockets can offer him five years, but would they? Every other team can offer four years, but a number of teams don’t want to go that far with him.

It will come down to value. Does another team value Howard and what he can bring to the court — he still is strong defensively and can score near the basket, plus steps up in the playoffs — more than the Rockets? Howard and Harden have not meshed well, would the Rockets be willing to move on because of that? Or can that be fixed.

Daryl Morey has worked hard to try to get superstars to Houston. He’s going to think hard about letting one walk away in Howard, even if this is not the same Howard of a few years back.

Report: Anderson Varejao likely to sign with Warriors Sunday

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This could lead to an awkward reunion in June.

The Cleveland Cavaliers traded fan favorite and long-time Cav Anderson Varejao in a three-team deal at the deadline to bring in sharp shooting big Channing Frye. It was clearly a move that looks ahead to Golden State in the Finals and matching up with them. Portland got Varejao and instantly bought him out and waived him. Once he clears waivers Sunday, Varejao is a free agent who can sign anywhere (except back in Cleveland, under NBA rules).

How about Golden State?

They are the clear frontrunners, according to Marc Stein of ESPN.

The Golden State Warriors have emerged as the heavy favorite to sign soon-to-be free agent Anderson Varejao, according to league sources. League sources told ESPN.com that Varejao is leaning strongly toward joining the Warriors after he clears waivers Sunday afternoon at 5 p.m….

The Warriors would have to release a player to create an open roster spot but have a need for an addtional contributor on the front line with Festus Ezeli recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery and Andrew Bogut nursing an Achilles injury.

The Warriors would have minutes for Varejao to play, at least at first with the other starting big men sidelined for now. That role likely will shrink to nearly nothing come the playoffs, but he could be used in spot duty in certain matchups.

The other draw in Golden State is fellow Brazilian Leandro Barbosa.

If and when Golden State signs Varejao it sets up an awkward reunion in the NBA Finals (assuming both teams make it through, as expected).

DeAndre Jordan bent the rim with dunk against Warriors (VIDEO)

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Damn.

This late third-quarter dunk by DeAndre Jordan was so powerful the rim did not snap back into place and sat like that for a little while, until corrected. That man has a lot of power and knows how to use it.

The Warriors got the win, 115-112, it a game that wasn’t that close (the Clippers went on a 13-0 garbage-time run at the end to make it interesting). With both Andrew Bogut and Festus Ezeli out injured, the Warriors started their small-ball lineup, which opened a door for Jordan to finish with 16 points and 21 rebounds. But Draymond Green had a triple-double and won that matchup.

Karl Anthony-Towns blocks Kristaps Porzingis with authority (VIDEO)

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The two guys who will finish one-two in the Rookie of the Year balloting faced off Saturday night in Minnesota — except there wasn’t much of a faceoff. Porzingis was in foul trouble most of the evening and played less than 12 minutes, scoring just six points.

Meanwhile, Towns was a force with 23 points, eight rebounds, and three blocks — one of them an impressive block of a Porzingis running hook. That Towns could time that out and get up enough to block the hook shot of a 7’3″ guy is amazing.

The Knicks still got the win, 103-95, behind 30 from Carmelo Anthony and 26 from Robin Lopez.

Watch Klay Thompson drop 32 on Clippers in Warriors win

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Stephen Curry looked human (relatively), shooting just 5-of-15 on his way to 23 points. That was a good sign for the Clippers, trying to hand the Warriors their first back-to-back losses of the season.

But then there was Klay Thompson to keep the offense going.

Thompson did a little bit of everything — hustled down the court for transition buckets, dunked, hit some key three-pointers, and when the Clipper defense forced him into the midrange he hit those, too. Thompson finished with 32 points on 23 shots, and combined with Draymond Green‘s triple-double the Warriors did not suffer another loss, winning 115-112.