While, for the Houston Rockets, landing Dwight Howard was most certainly not easy, for fans, following the pursuit of Dwight Howard was pretty simple.
Last summer, Howard was an unrestricted free agent, requiring of a maximum salary deal (or as close to it as possible), and the teams that were in the running for him all had made as many moves as possible to position themselves to sign him.
All that was required was to sell Howard on coming to Houston. Not easy to do, but easy to grasp.
In early July, a dog-and-pony show ensued, which, for the Rockets, meant a private plane junket to Los Angeles that included every Houston legend short of Bush 41 to meet with Dwight and convince him that Houston was the place for him. Overcoming all odds (along with overcoming the Lakers, Mavericks and Warriors), the Rockets landed Howard, signing him to a four deal.
Case closed. Now it's 2014, and the next move (assuming there is one) promises to be far more complex, as we are beginning to get a taste as to just how much so.
Rockets owner Les Alexander has promised a big move this offseason to bring in another star player. Generally, it's assumed that the frontrunners to accept Alexander's anointing as such are Carmelo Anthony of the New York Knicks (for now) and Kevin Love of the Minnesota Timberwolves (for now).
The moving parts for each of those two players are very different.
For Carmelo Anthony, the league awaits the date of June 23, which is the deadline for him to notify the Knicks of his intentions for 2014-15 -- either opt out of the final year of his deal or stay on in New York for one more season (and another $23 million in income) and enter free agency next offseason. The Knicks are obviously hoping for the latter scenario, giving them a year with Phil Jackson running the team and Derek Fisher coaching the team to sell Anthony on staying long-term.
So in theory, the Rockets (and others; more on this in a moment) would, in all likelihood, be looking to sign Anthony as a free agent this summer (with fingers crossed that he opts out of his current deal in the next two weeks), which means opening up cap room, which means moving Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin (and their $16 million in collective cap space) for nothing cap-eating in return. This is way easier said than done, especially moving Lin.
For Kevin Love, the league awaits the Timberwolves' decision on what to do with him -- keep him or trade him. This much we know -- 1) Love's contract expires after the upcoming season, and 2) he has no desire to stay in Minnesota.
For the Rockets to acquire Love would require a package in return that would include young, manageable salaried assets, which would likely mean a package including soon-to-be restricted free agent Chandler Parsons in a sign-and-trade, and/or small forward Terrence Jones (three years away from unrestricted free agency), and/or a smattering of draft considerations.
As you can see, the processes for the Rockets to land either Anthony or Love both have far more moving parts than the straight one-on-one sales process of the Howard Situation of 2013.
So where do the Rockets stand with both guys? Well, Wednesday was not a day for great news. First came this story of Carmelo Anthony possibly wanting to make Miami's Big Three a Big Four:
Sources told ESPN.com that Heat officials and the team's leading players have already started to explore their options for creating sufficient financial flexibility to make an ambitious run at adding New York Knicks scoring machine Carmelo Anthony this summer in free agency.
The mere concept would require the star trio of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to all opt out of their current contracts by the end of the month and likely take further salary reductions in new deals that start next season to give Miami the ability to offer Anthony a representative first-year salary. The Heat also are prevented from making any formal contact with Anthony until July 1 and can do so then only if he opts out of the final year of his current contract. Anthony has until June 23 to notify the Knicks of his intentions, according to sources.
But how would they do this? Well, funny you should ask....
With cooperation from their stars and role players Udonis Haslem and Chris Andersen, who also possess player options for next season, the Heat could open up in excess of $50 million in cap space this summer and have the most financial flexibility in the league. The only Heat player locked into place for next season is Norris Cole at a salary of $2 million, although Riley will have to contend with a handful of cap holds for pending free agents as well as their upcoming first-round pick (No. 26 overall) in the draft later this month.
Getting James, Wade, Bosh, Haslem and Andersen to take pay cuts significant enough to open a significant slot for Anthony undoubtedly will be complex. It would require reductions that could stretch into the tens of millions over the next few seasons. Sources say the Heat's plan is to sell the players they wish to keep on the long-term benefits of making such a sacrifice.
Of course, a deal like this would give the Heat four of the top five players from the vaunted 2003 NBA Draft. (Somewhere, Darko Milicic is choking down a heater and getting his agent on the phone to see if the group wants to complete the quintet by making him the 15th man.)
So on a scale of 1 to 10, for the Rockets, this news was a -3.51.
Then came this tweet from USA Today's NBA writer Sam Amick on the Love situation....
On the Kevin Love front, I'm told the Houston Rockets are pretty sure they're outgunned in terms of having the assets that Minnesota wants.
— Sam Amick (@sam_amick) June 11, 2014
And on a scale of 1 to 10, this news was a -4.12.
So if my math serves me correctly, and as I briefly crunch the numbers, according to my calculations, Wednesday was a moderately shitty day for the Rockets.
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