- Chris Broussard, NBA analyst
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Paul and Howard will be the biggest free agents on the market this summer, and their desire is to play together, the sources said.
"They would love to play together if somebody can make it happen," one of the sources said.
The Atlanta Hawks could make it happen. Atlanta, which is Howard's hometown, has the cap room to sign both players to maximum-salaried contracts.
Howard is not particularly fond of the idea of returning to Atlanta, but he would do so to team up with Paul, the sources said.
But Paul, despite recently being upset with the Clippers over the perception that he got coach Vinny Del Negro fired, is unlikely to leave Los Angeles, one source said. He has gotten over his anger with the club and likes living in Los Angeles.
"It would be very tough for him to go to Atlanta," the source said. "He loved Atlanta when they should have drafted him in '05 but not so much since then. But hey, everybody is an option at this point."
The preference for both players would be to play together for the Clippers, according to the sources. Because the Clippers don't have enough cap room to sign Howard as a free agent, it would take a sign-and-trade deal with the Lakers to make it happen.
The Clippers would be open to working out a deal, but they fear the Lakers would never trade Howard to them, according to the sources.
Sources say there was a faction of the Clippers organization that entertained the idea of trading Griffin for Howard when Howard wanted out of Orlando in 2012. But others within the franchise regarded Griffin as "untouchable," and there were never any serious discussions with Orlando.
Multiple sources insist Griffin remains untouchable. But realistically he would have to be included in any deal that brought Howard to the Clippers.
Paul and Howard have been communicating via text messages. This is not the first time they've talked about teaming up together.
During the lockout of 2011, they spoke often about going to Dallas together to play for the Mavericks. But their subsequent trades, Howard's decision to opt into the final year of his contract in Orlando and Dallas' current payroll situation seemed to eliminate the possibility of them becoming teammates.
8dEthan Sherwood Strauss