If free agent center Dwight Howard emerged from his late-night meal with the Rockets posse understanding one thing, it should be that there is no other target in the team's pursuit of a championship this offseason more important. A group that included team owner Les Alexander, general manager Daryl Morey, coach Kevin McHale, team president Tad Brown, VP of player personnel Gersson Rosas, James Harden, Chandler Parsons, Clyde Drexler, Hakeem Olajuwon and even Yao Ming via Skype met with Howard and his representatives after 9 p.m. California time last night to lay out their pitch and it was simple: with Howard, the Rockets can compete for championships, and, like Obi Wan Kenobi, he is their only hope.
f there were any doubt that this would gain the attention of every sports media person on the planet, one only needed to read Twitter last night, where rumors were flying and details came fast an furious. Leave it to mega-fan website ClutchFans.net to have the most interesting and immediate details of the night when fan Shriram Bhat -- whose twitter followers must have jumped by 500 last night -- was actually at the Rockets hotel snapping pictures.
According to media reports, the meeting went very well with Howard spending most of his time asking about how the team would be built to win titles. Since the offseason began, it has been clear from his side that his main interest is landing with a team that provides him the best chance for winning and the Rockets appear to be that spot.
But, there is also the issue of who they will surround him with. Harden, Parsons and Jeremy Lin are great, and having Omer Asik as a second center could make them formidable defensively, but what else. The team cleared that up when they waved Aaron Brooks and Carlos Delfino before the meeting. They also traded Thomas Robinson to Portland for picks and players without guaranteed contracts, and did not pick up the option on Francisco Garcia. With that cap space clear, so was their intent when in the room with Howard.
They also planned to meet with free agent veterans Mike Dunleavy and Corey Brewer while in LA, but something bigger could be brewing. Rumors were flying all night that the Rockets intend to pitch a sign-and-trade with Atlanta to try and land free agent forward Josh Smith. Smith was in Detroit last night to meet with Pistons team representatives, who are said to be making a big offer, but the opportunity to pair the two biggest free agents on the market -- Chris Paul agreed to re-sign with the Clippers after Doc Rivers was brought on to coach -- must be tantalizing for everyone involved.
But even without Smith, the pitch by the Rockets, at this point, has got to be the best on the table. Most experts believe that it is a two-horse race between Houston and LA for the big man, with Dallas a close third and Atlanta only a courtesy call because it is Howard's home town. Howard is scheduled to meet with the remaining three bidders for his service by Tuesday and is said to want to make a quick decision. At this point, if he truly is interested in winning, his best prospects are undoubtedly in Houston, but that's what everyone thought when he and Steve Nash joined the Lakers last year.
For now, the Rockets did everything they could to acquit themselves and put their best feet forward. And when those feet include three Hall of Famers, two of your young stars and the team owner, all preaching winning and saying they will make you the cornerstone of their offense, my guess is it will be a tough offer for Howard to refuse.
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