Atlanta Prepares To Woo Dwight Howard
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ATLANTA (AP) — The Atlanta Hawks’ new management team is trying to convince the biggest name in free agency to continue his career in his hometown.
Hawks general manager Danny Ferry and new coach Mike Budenholzer are in Los Angeles to talk with Atlanta native Dwight Howard and other free agents, said a person familiar with the situation.
Ferry and Budenholzer also are expected to meet with Hawks unrestricted free agents Josh Smith and Kyle Korver on the trip, the person told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because Monday’s meetings have not been officially announced.
Smith, also an Atlanta native, has an offseason home near Los Angeles.
The Hawks made a qualifying offer to point guard Jeff Teague, who became an unrestricted free agent, before free agency opened Sunday at midnight EDT. Forward Ivan Johnson did not receive an offer from Atlanta but can still negotiate with the team as an unrestricted free agent.
Howard has met with Houston and has interest from Dallas. The Lakers have said they hope to re-sign Howard, the center who averaged 17.1 points and 12.4 rebounds.
Howard was the No. 1 overall pick out of Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy in 2004. Smith was picked by Atlanta, No. 17 overall, from Oak Hill Academy, in the same draft.
Contracts can’t be signed until July 10.
Ferry began his makeover of the Hawks’ roster last summer by trading Joe Johnson and Marvin Williams. The reconstruction of the roster is continuing as forward-center Al Horford is the only starter who is a lock to return.
Guard Lou Williams, recovering from knee surgery that ended his 2012-13 season, and 2012 first-round pick John Jenkins are the only other players definitely under contract for next season. Williams was the Hawks’ third-leading scorer with an average of 14.1 points, most coming as the team’s sixth man, before his injury.
The Hawks can match any offer to Teague and may have strong interest in re-signing Korver, who was the team’s strongest 3-point shooter while playing as a starter and backup.
Teague, a first-round pick in 2009, set career highs last season with his averages of 14.6 points and 7.2 assists.
The Hawks are not expected to bring back unrestricted free-agent Devin Harris. The team added options at point guard in last week’s NBA draft.
Ferry selected 7-foot center Lucas Nogueira and point guard Dennis Schroeder in the first round of the draft. The Hawks acquired point guard Jared Cunningham in a draft-day trade and added point guard Raul Neto of Brazil late in the draft.
The young point guards are insurance, but Ferry and Budenholzer have indicated interest in keeping Teague.
“Jeff has been an important part of our group the last few years,” Ferry said at the draft. “He was an important part of our team last year and as we start to look at free agency and so on, we’re absolutely going to sit down and talk to Jeff as his process gets started.”
The Hawks hope Williams, who tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee on Jan. 18 will be ready for the start of next season.
“He’s really progressed well as of late,” Ferry said of Williams. “He’s worked diligently in making the improvements. For a guy that’s never been hurt before, he’s had a good approach, taking it seriously and doing the right things.”