In fact, if you listen to Howard’s agent, Houston found workable deals with multiple teams.
Howard just didn’t acquiesce.
Dan Fegan, via Marc Stein of ESPN:
“Not surprisingly, as the deadline approached, several teams called stating they had worked out the trade parameters with Houston for a Dwight deal but were not prepared to give up their assets unless Dwight agreed to opt into the last year of his contract and forego free agency. Dwight declined.”
Fegan refused to discuss specific teams that made pitches for Howard, but sources told ESPN.com that the Bucks were one of those teams.
The Bucks and Rockets did exchange some trade proposals, sources said, but Milwaukee made it clear that it wouldn’t go through with any deal for Howard unless he opted into the final season of his contract
It’s possible Fegan is exaggerating to spark interest in his client. I know – an agent misleading? Better sit down.
Negotiating with the Rockets and then asking Howard to opt in falls somewhere between taking an unlikely swing and wasting time.
Howard is almost definitely opting out. He’s slated to earn $23,282,457 next season if he opts in, but a max contract next summer projects to start at about $30 million. He could earn about $170 million over five years by re-signing or about $128 million over four years elsewhere. Even if Howard doesn’t get the full max, he’s quite likely to get a bigger raise than his current contract calls for and more long-term security. Plus, it’s better for him to hit free agency at age 30 instead of age 31.
If Howard desperately wanted to leave Houston, maybe he would’ve take the financial hit to facilitate a deal. But whatever problems he has with the Rockets, he at least says publicly he wants to stay. That means something. When players get extremely frustrated with their situation, they no longer care enough to say the “right” things. See Markieff Morris. Howard hasn’t reached that point.
With Howard unwilling to opt in, his value to other teams shrunk. There was apparently no overlap between how much a team would’ve traded to get Howard on a likely ending contract and what Houston would’ve accept to deal him.
Now, the Rockets are the team stuck with Howard entering free agency – a predicament nobody else wanted badly enough to face, even though teams apparently recognized Howard’s productivity on the court.