Dallas Mavericks: Tim Ohlbrecht

How can Houston afford Dwight Howard?

May, 24, 2013
It’s been widely reported that the Houston Rockets are a team that intrigues Dwight Howard. The Rockets might even rank ahead of the Bird-rights-owning Los Angeles Lakers as the Mavericks’ primary competitors for the perennial All-Star big man.

Rick Carlisle joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss the latest Mavericks news, Dirk Nowitzki and much more.

Listen Listen
Here’s one problem for Houston: The Rockets would have to do some significant payroll slashing to be positioned to offer Howard a max contract.

Howard’s max salary next season would be $20,513,178. The salary cap is expected to be set between $58.5 million and $60 million. The Rockets have $48,571,158 worth of contracts on the books, assuming they decline Francisco Garcia’s $6.4 million team option.

It doesn’t take an MBA from MIT -- which Rockets general manager Daryl Morey happens to have -- to figure out that the math doesn’t add up for Houston and Howard.

Morey made sure the Rockets had some built-in wiggle room with seven nonguaranteed deals on the roster, although that list includes six-figure bargains Chandler Parsons, Patrick Beverley and Greg Smith that are inexpensive, integral parts of James Harden’s supporting cast. Houston might have to sacrifice one of their major additions from last summer to make room for Howard.

That could mean trading point guard Jeremy Lin or center Omer Asik to a team with cap space for no immediate return. That is a nice way to say dumping an $8,374,646 million salary, the amount both Lin and Asik are due in the second season of their identical three-year, $25.12 million contracts.

Such a salary dump would put the Rockets close to being able to afford Howard, but they’d still have some work to do.

They could waive sixth man Carlos Delfino ($3 million) and/or reserve point guard Aaron Brooks ($2.5 million), both of whom have June 30 deadlines before their salaries become guaranteed, meaning a decision would have to be made before the Rockets are allowed to meet with Howard. The nonguaranteed salaries of young projects Tim Ohlbrecht ($788,872) and James Anderson ($916,099) could also create the necessary space depending on where the cap falls, although the Rockets would pick up a cap hold of $490,180 in the process if they cut both because their roster would dip under 12 players. A salary-dump deal that would send 2012 No. 5 overall pick Thomas Robinson ($3.53 million) to his third team is another alternative.

A much less attractive option than finding an under-the-cap trade partner to take on the contract of Lin or Asik: Waiving one of them and using the stretch provision.

In that case, the Rockets would still have to pay the $16.75 million remaining on the contract, but they would be allowed to spread the cap hit over five years (twice the length remaining on the contract plus one year). So Houston would create a little more than $5 million in cap space with such a move – and then have to get rid of nonguaranteed salary and/or make salary-dump deals to ship off young talent (Robinson, Terrence Jones, Donatas Motiejunas).

The Mavs would also have to do some maneuvering to give Howard a max contract, but not nearly as much as the Rockets.

The Rockets can free up enough money for Howard, but it would require slicing into the supporting cast of a playoff team -- and perhaps paying a $16.75 million tax in addition to his max deal.

HOUSTON – How did things go so humiliatingly haywire for the Mavericks in the third quarter of what could be considered a high-stakes game?

“I don’t have an explanation for it,” coach Rick Carlisle said after the Mavs’ 136-103 loss Sunday to the Rockets, “other than they picked up their game and we didn’t match it.”

The Mavs have been a bad defensive team all season, giving up the fourth most points in the NBA, but allowing the Rockets to rip off 44 points in a dozen minutes was rock bottom.

It isn’t like Houston suddenly got hot, either. The Rockets had a 64-61 halftime lead after small forward Chandler Parsons put up 18 points, 3.2 more than he averages per game.

But the Rockets’ efficiency in the third quarter, which they opened with a 15-0 run, was just ridiculous. Houston was 14-of-20 from the floor, 6-of-10 from 3-point range, 10-of-13 from the line and didn’t commit a single turnover.

Parson, who finished with a career high 32 points on 12-of-13 shooting, had 11 points in the frame and wasn’t even Houston’s leading scorer for the quarter. James Harden, who actually had a rough first half, had 14 of his 21 points and four of his seven assists in the third.

“It was just a damn layup drill and wide-open 3s,” Dirk Nowitzki said. “That was embarrassing.”

A few more notes from this miserable night for the Mavs:

1. Dirk’s dud: A dominant Dirk couldn’t have overshadowed this dreadful defensive performance, but Nowitzki’s off night didn’t help matters.
Nowitzki, who had scored at least 20 points in four of the previous five games, was held to only eight points on 2-of-8 shooting.

“I never got any good looks,” Nowitzki said. “They played me with a smaller guy. Every time I took him to the post, they were digging deep, the same thing really Memphis was doing.

“They’re not going to leave me much in pick-and-rolls any more. They’re going to make other guys make plays. Everything I get, I basically have to work for. I still should have made a couple of those shots I took in the second half.”

This was the second time in three games that Nowitzki didn’t have a field goal in the second half. He was also 0-for after halftime in the Mavs’ loss in Memphis.

“Maybe when the game goes like this, I’ve got to be aggressive earlier and not just take one shot in the first quarter to kind of get us going more,” Nowitzki said. “But I felt like we were scoring there at a decent clip in the first half, so I kind of let the other boys do it.

“Once we needed my scoring in the third quarter, I didn’t really have much going. Maybe I’ve got to establish myself earlier and we’ll see how that works.”

2. Adding injury to insult: O.J. Mayo left the Toyota Center with a hard plastic splint protecting his right thumb.

Mayo said he sprained the thumb in the first half, but he didn’t expect to undergo an MRI to determine the severity of the injury.

“I’ll be all right,” said Mayo, who had 18 points on 6-of-9 shooting.

3. Another German import: Tim Ohlbrecht, Dirk Nowitzki’s teammate on the German Olympic team, made his NBA debut against the Mavs.

Ohlbrecht, a center signed recently by the Rockets after a stint in the D-League, scored three points in 5:37 of garbage time. He was greeted warmly by Nowitzki before the game and waited outside the Mavs’ locker room afterwards to meet with the German legend.

“Of course I’m going to look up to him,” Ohlbrecht said. “I’m just proud to make it in the same league as him.”



Monta Ellis
20.5 4.6 1.5 33.7
ReboundsT. Chandler 11.6
AssistsM. Ellis 4.6
StealsM. Ellis 1.5
BlocksB. Wright 1.5