From Dave McMenamin, ESPN LA: The Los Angeles Lakers were assured they would get the last word when it came to Dwight Howard’s free-agency pitch process. Turns out they got the first word as well. Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak met briefly with Howard face-to-face shortly after 12:01 a.m. ET Monday when NBA free agency officially opened up, a league source told ESPNLosAngeles.com. Kupchak’s message to Howard? “Quick hello and good luck,” said a source with knowledge of the conversation. The Houston Rockets, meanwhile, also met with Howard early Monday in Los Angeles.
From Mark Heisler, Lakers Nation: So Dwight Howard sets his sights on Texas–the perfect choice in a career of looking for love in too many places. Oh, he’s still here? Oh, right, he just started taking presentations, with the huge Rockets’ delegation going first Sunday night at 9 p.m., the moment Dwight officially became a free agent. Of course, the batting order means nothing, which should reassure Laker fans as much as anything Dwight has ever said. Yes, after a two-year vaudeville act of a run-up, in which he messed up every team he played for and tried to go to, he’s free! Remember when there was no downside to being a free agent?
From Mike Bresnahan, LA Times: Without the reassuring voice of Jerry Buss, the late Lakers owner whose eleventh-hour phone call prevented Kobe Bryant from going to the Clippers in 2004, the Lakers are turning to two veterans to help keep Dwight Howard in Los Angeles. Bryant and Steve Nash will be part of the Lakers’ delegation that meets Tuesday with Howard to try to persuade him to sign a five-year, $118-million contract. They’ll be joined by Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak and Coach Mike D’Antoni. Team executives Jeanie Buss and Jim Buss are also expected to attend the meeting at an undisclosed Los Angeles location.
From TheGreatMambino, Silver Screen & Roll: In just a few days’ time, Dwight Howard could leave the Los Angeles Lakers. The Houston Rockets have been reported as the center’s top suitor, with LA and the Dallas Mavericks in the mix and the Atlanta Hawks bringing up the rear. It’s a sobering reality to think of a star player leaving the bright lights of Southern California for Dallas, Houston or Atlanta, but Howard is bringing a strange new world to one of the most celebrated franchises in all of sports. As I scan the pulse of Lakers fans everywhere, I’ve noticed a discernible notion that letting Dwight Howard walk is not the worst scenario possible. Some have mentioned that he’s not worth the years or money, while others simply don’t want to build around a player who has such a flair for problematic drama. Another group feels that his prime has come and gone, and his health issues from last season weren’t just a one year malady.
From Kurt Helin, Pro Basketball Talk: Like a Disney fairy tale, when the clock struck midnight Dwight Howard has gotten what he always wanted, what he has earned the right to by playing out his contract: He is a free agent. As of this moment. For the next 48 hours — starting with the Rockets just after the official start of free agency at midnight as Sunday flipped to Monday and running for a couple days — six teams will come to Los Angeles and get their chance to make a pitch to Howard. All of them will offer him a max contract (the Lakers can offer more with his Bird rights) but this will swing more on other factors, not the dollars. Anyone who tells you right now they know what Howard is going to do is selling something — nobody knows. Not even Howard. You can handicap the field, but the fact is he has wanted this moment, he has wanted teams to come recruit him, and he’s going to listen. He is going to savor this. And we know from experience Howard is not the most decisive guy ever, so this thing could go just about any direction. Here are the teams walking in the door, in my perceived order of their chances.