The Dwight Howard free agency circus is officially underway again.
The Los Angeles Lakers center is unlikely to re-sign with the team when he becomes a free agent July 1, according to a report Thursday morning from ESPN's Chris Broussard. The seven-time All-Star plans to host meetings in Los Angeles with officials from the Dallas Mavericks, Houston Rockets and Atlanta Hawks this summer to see if one of them is a better fit.
The news comes nearly a year after Howard left the Orlando Magic following a very public riff with former head coach Stan Van Gundy and disputes with management. Howard had asked for the team to trade him before the 2011-12 season, and then ended up opting in to the final year of his contract.
If he doesn't re-sign with the Lakers this summer, he will leave $30 million on the table; the Lakers can offer Howard a five-year $118 million contract, while the Mavs, Hawks, Rockets or another team can sign him for four years and approximately $88 million. According to Broussard, Howard, 27, is willing to forgo that extra money in order to be with a coach and a system that will "better utilize his skill set."
Howard reportedly doesn't like playing for Lakers head coach Mike D'Antoni and doesn't want to be in the shadows of Kobe Bryant anymore. Bryant has said the Lakers need to "lock him up" and wants the final word with Howard before he makes a decision.
But as Howard looks toward other teams, Broussard said that sources close to Howard believe that Dallas could be the best fit because he likes the idea of taking the reins from Dirk Nowitzki as the franchise player and sees the Mavs as the team that's best positioned for a championship over the next few years. Dallas is reportedly shopping the $9 million left on forward Shawn Marion's contract to create more space for signing Howard this summer.
Howard is also being heavily recruited by James Harden and Chandler Parsons of the Rockets. But even though he likes the idea of playing for Hall of Famer Kevin McHale, he sees Houston's up-tempo offense, a style often employed by D'Antoni, as not an optimal fit for his play in the post.
The Hawks, as Broussard reports, are "a long shot." Howard is from the Atlanta area and had been interested in possibly signing with the team if Los Angeles Clippers point guard Chris Paul decides to go as well, but the Clippers' recent signing of head coach Doc Rivers makes it all the more unlikely that Paul leaves Los Angeles, especially for the Hawks. GOLLIVER: Draft needs for every team