Report: Rockets not trading Dwight Howard, will chase Kevin Durant

Associated Press
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Dwight Howard trade rumors are flying as the NBA trade deadline nears — Boston reportedly kicked the tires on a deal, and other teams are interested as well. With Howard to be a free agent this summer, there is a “get something now before you lose him for nothing” logic to the scuttlebutt.

But as has been mentioned before, the Rockets have no interest in moving him.

What they do have interest in doing is keeping him and chasing Kevin Durant this summer. Marc Stein and Calvin Watkins of ESPN have the details.

Sources told ESPN.com on Wednesday that the Rockets, despite recent speculation to the contrary, are not looking to trade Howard before the Feb. 18 deadline, even though he has to right to become a free agent July 1 and could thus leave the team this summer without compensation.

The Rockets’ grand plan, sources said this week, remains making an all-out pursuit in free agency this summer for Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant. Rockets officials have long believed privately that they will have as good a chance as any team to steal Durant away from the Thunder in the offseason because of his strong relationship with his former teammate, Harden, and the room Houston has to pay Durant max-contract money while also re-signing Howard.

If you were going to trade Howard, you would deny it. Even if they weren’t inclined to move him, the Rockets would be foolish not to listen to people calling just to see what the market might be for Howard — and Daryl Morey is not foolish. But if the market is tepid, as it seems to be, then this is how you respond.

While the Rockets remain an up-and-down team this season (10-10 in their last 20), they show flashes of playing decent defense, and with that being closer to the team that preseason many thought would be a borderline contender. It makes sense they would want to keep the core of this unit together (that does not include Ty Lawson) and make another surprising playoff run.

Do the Rockets want to chase Durant if he leaves Oklahoma City? Of course — 29 teams will get in line if he decides to test the waters. He is a franchise changing player. Golden State will be near the front of the line, but every team from there to Manhattan will want to get their shot. Houston is no different, and the James Harden connection does, at least, give them a foot in the door. But we are a long way from KD even testing those waters (I still expect him to sign a 1+1 deal in OKC to stay for another year, then really consider his options in 2017).

Meanwhile, don’t be shocked if the Rockets are active at the trade deadline — Morey is still their GM.