Warriors step up pursuit of Howard

Updated: July 5, 2013, 9:44 AM ET
By Brian Windhorst and Marc Stein | ESPN.com

The Golden State Warriors, increasingly convinced they have a legitimate shot at winning the Dwight Howard sweepstakes, have begun aggressively attempting to trade away players to clear the requisite salary-cap space to sign the All-Star center, according to sources with knowledge of the team's thinking.

The Warriors were one of five teams granted the opportunity to recruit Howard in an in-person meeting this week. ESPN.com reported Wednesday that, in perhaps the first surprising development in the wake of those meetings, Warriors officials "made an impression" on Howard to the point that they had gained ground on the two teams -- the Houston Rockets and Dallas Mavericks -- widely presumed to have the only legitimate shot at stealing Howard away from the Lakers.

But Golden State's hopes of actually acquiring Howard always have been clouded by the fact they would need the Lakers to agree to a sign-and-trade.

The Lakers have been adamant for weeks they would prefer to let Howard leave for nothing and bank the resultant salary-cap space in the summer of 2014, with many rival executives likewise convinced that L.A. would have real reservations about helping Howard land with a division rival. So sources say that the Warriors, in an effort to manufacture some financial flexibility to help their chances, have begun calling teams with salary-cap space to try to entice them to take expiring contracts off their books so they can clear a $20 million hole for Howard.

Such a scenario would be challenging, some executives have said, but not impossible. The Warriors have three huge expiring contracts in Andrew Bogut ($14 million), Richard Jefferson ($11 million) and Andris Biedrins ($9 million). According to sources, they have tried to unload all three players this week to teams with cap room. Yet, Golden State likely would have to be willing to add assets to any potential deals to get teams interested. Sources say the Warriors have been willing to attach a future first-round pick to move one of their bad contracts since last February's trade deadline, but potential partners tend to ask for prized youngsters such as Harrison Barnes or Klay Thompson -- two of the more attractive young players in the league -- when the subject of absorbing one of the Warriors' big contracts is broached.

A source close to the talks said Howard is hoping to make his decision by Friday.

Sources say the Warriors got Howard's attention during this week thanks to their pitch, which featured owner Joe Lacob, coach Mark Jackson, general manager Bob Myers and special Warriors consultant Jerry West.

Sources say the bigger threats to the Lakers, though, still appear to be Houston and Dallas unless Golden State can address its financial limitations. The Rockets offer the immediate lure of playing alongside James Harden and a promise from Houston's front office to keep adding championship-level talent, whereas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban is urging Howard to join proven ring winners in Dirk Nowitzki and coach Rick Carlisle -- with Nowitzki also vowing to take a significant pay cut in the summer of 2014 that creates the needed salary-cap space for the Mavs to sign another star.

Information from ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter was used in this report.

Marc Stein | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com
• Senior NBA writer for ESPN.com
• Began covering the NBA in 1993-94
• Also covered soccer, tennis and the Olympics

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