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Rockets Seem Headed Toward Pre-Draft Trade With Dwight Howard Topping List

By TERRANCE HARRIS, SportsRadio 610
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Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard (credit: Getty Images)

Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard (credit: Getty Images)

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HOUSTON (CBS Houston) – There are some off the wall trade possibilities and then there are some that make sense as all kinds of rumors swirl with Thursday night’s NBA Draft approaching.

The interesting thing is the Rockets, who hold the 14th and 16th overall picks, seem to be in thick of a few trade possibilities. The most notable is the organizations continued fascination with Orlando Magic All-Star center Dwight Howard.

According to an ESPN.com report, the Rockets are willing to do whatever is necessary to land the star player and dominant post presence they have been lacking since Yao Ming retired. The question is will the Rockets finally be able to land Howard in a blockbuster trade deal?

But the real question should be is it wise to mortgage the future of the franchise in terms of sending the draft picks and maybe Chandler Parsons to Orlando in exchange for a star player with expiring contract and a fascination with playing in Los Angeles?

What will happen prior to Thursday night’s draft seems to be anybody’s guess.

“Everybody is trying to move up, everybody is trying to improve their team and that is what we are trying to do,” Rockets coach Kevin McHale said Monday during the team’s work day at the Houston Food Bank.  “As far as the specifics and all that stuff, I can address any of that. But everybody is trying to improve their team.”

And the Rockets are at the top of that list of teams trying retool to make a push for the NBA title. While the Rockets are saying they want disgruntled point guard Kyle Lowry to remain with the team and that he and up-and-coming point guard Goran Dragic can co-exist in the backcourt next season, they are believed to be shopping Lowry. The rumored destination right now is Toronto.

According to ESPN, the Rockets covet moving up and landing either Sacramento’s No.6 pick or the Raptors No.8 pick.  Either one of those picks along with the right combination of players could be enough to convince Orlando to give up Howard.

That certainly seems to fit with McHale’s flat out admission he has no real desire to see the team bring in two more rookies to go along with the three – Marcus Morris, Donatas Motiejunas and Parsons – the team added in last year’s draft.

The 7-foot Motiejunas will be a rookie this season after electing to remain overseas last year and Morris played so sparingly last season that he is a virtual rookie all over again.

“I would just as soon add one (rookie)and two veterans. You can only get so young in our league and be successful,” McHale said. “It’s that blend of trying to make sure we don’t have all the guys be 19 or 20 years old.”

More to the point, McHale is in complete agreement with owner Leslie Alexander and general manager Daryl Morey that rebuilding the Rockets from the ground up isn’t the answer. The goal is to win now and if that means mortgaging the future of the franchise so be it.

“You will look at the draft long enough and you realize there are a lot of good guys in the draft,” said McHale, whose team just missed the playoffs in his first year with the franchise. “But you look at free agency and say `Those guys are already proven. A lot of time it’s a lot easier with proven talent.”

McHale, who was the general manager in Minnesota before taking over the Rockets, wouldn’t say whether or not he is optimistic a deal can be done by Thursday. His years in the front office have taught him to know better than to quantify such a fleeting thing.

“Having done this job at different levels for a long long time, I don’t know if there is even a level of optimism,” he said. “Some days it works and you are like `Wow, everything worked out.’ Other draft days you are like `Nothing worked out.’ Everybody you like is gone and no one makes a trade and you are like how did this all happen. Thursday night will be unique to itself.

“I’m happy because we like 18 to 20 guys deep into this draft so you know you are going to get a couple guys you like at our picks.”

Rockets CEO Tad Brown, however, seemed optimistic the team will be able to make the moves it needs to make to get back among the elite Western Conference teams sooner rather than later.

“I think we approach the same way every year, the expectations internally are very high,” Brown said. “Our expectations from Mr. Alexander and driven through the organization is he wants to be a championship caliber team. So we expect to make the moves and make the changes so that we are going to be a playoff contending team as well as a team that can go deep into the West.

“That’s what we are trying to do now, we are trying to give Coach and the other guys the resources so that they can make that push and I think this year we feel like we really feel like we have a really good opportunity not just with the young guys who are really starting to play well but with also we’ve got picks and we’ve got some cap room to go out. And the coaching staff is now going to have a full year to coach these guys up in our summer league and in our training camp. We think it’s just going to give us that much more of an opportunity to make the push into the West.”

Contact Terrance Harris at terrancefharris@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter @Terranceharris

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