James Harden, Dwight Howard

The Houston Rockets failing to turn this season into something they’re happy with has resulted in some emergency meetings between Dwight Howard, James Harden, Interim head coach J.B. Bickerstaff and Daryl Morey. The result?

Well, it depends on how much you believe ESPN pushing an angle suggesting the Rockets are trying to trade Howard, calling up teams and doing their due diligence. While there’s been nothing official from the Rockets about the matter as we’re six days before the trade deadline, Howard has said he hasn’t asked for a trade. His agent, Dan Fegan, has said the same thing. He can’t guarantee what the Rockets are trying to do, but neither him or Howard have demanded a trade.

The impulse to suddenly trade one of the two centerpieces that were supposed to win the Houston Rockets a championship isn’t just about their 27-28 record, but Howard himself. The injuries and the declining numbers might be helping push towards that decision, with Howard averaging just 14.6 points per game, his lowest since his rookie year, while taking just 8.8 shots per game. But it also has something to do with his contract, maybe more than anything considering the Rockets don’t look like a team that’s going to win anything this season; at best make the playoffs.

Howard enters the final season of his four-year deal with the Rockets next season, but he can opt out of the contract promising him $23.2 million and try to get another long term deal for maybe even more money as the salary cap gets a massive boost. Howard isn’t the offensive or defensive player he was during his best years, but centers always fetch nice prices, even when they don’t have a lot left in the tank. Howard’s reasoning to opt out makes sense: It should be easier getting a big long term deal in 2016 than in 2017 considering the amount of games he’s been missing recently.

So while Howard might be on the trading block, there are those raising their eyebrows regarding Harden, pointing the finger at him for the Rockets inability to improve or at least build on last year’s conference finals appearance. His ball hogging, his personality, his defense. Harden is the team’s best player, but he’s forcing a certain style on this team that might be holding back. Regardless, the Rockets still see him as their future. Howard? Not so sure.

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