A month and a half ago, talk heightened about the Rockets trading Dwight Howard.
But that didn’t change the Rockets’ equation.
They still weren’t living up to their championship hopes. It wasn’t even clear whether they’d make the playoffs, limiting Howard’s value to them this season. Afterward, they could face the possibility of giving the 30-year-old a max contract or losing him.
Houston general manager Daryl Morey implied he wouldn’t trade Howard, but the statement was hardly definitive. Morey, via Brian T. Smith of the Houston Chronicle:
“We’re just focused on this season. So is Dwight. If we as a team and he as a player play(s) like we know he’s capable and has been this year and was last year, all that stuff takes care of itself. There’s no way we make the conference finals last year without Dwight and there’s no way are making the solid playoff push this year without Dwight.”
Here’s something a little more direct.
As much as Dwight Howard’s name was kicked around earlier in the season, league sources continue to say that Houston is not looking at Howard trades and that the odds of Howard being moved are so incredibly small it’s not worth exploring.
The Rockets have climbed to 25-23 and seventh in the Western Conference. Fifth place and a winnable first-round series are in reach.
That’s probably successful enough to stay the course with Howard. He’s still a good player, and winning a playoff series isn’t nothing. It might fall short of Houston’s original dreams, but the way the season started, it wouldn’t be half bad. Plus, keeping Howard would show future stars considering the Rockets that they take care of their own.
But this could lead to a tough decision in the offseason. If Howard gets other max offers – and there will be a lot of teams with cap space to make one – should Houston attempt to match? Paying Howard big money through his 30s could backfire. But losing him would set the team back and tarnish its image among some other stars who’d consider the Rockets.
Houston is in a difficult spot.
Keeping Howard and finding a solution later is the safe route – and apparently the likely one. But I wouldn’t completely rule out Morey making a move if something presents itself.