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.
The Jazz and Warriors are in talks, sources say, with Utah possessing the requisite salary-cap space. The Jazz also have an opening to take in Bogut's contract and have an opening for a big man after letting Al Jefferson walk away
It was a particularly uncomfortable holiday for the Los Angeles Lakers, sources told ESPN.com, as fears mount within the organization that Howard's current employers could have fallen to as low as fourth in his pecking order.
... there were indications late Thursday that Lakers officials, already bracing for the worst, had begun to rethink their long-held position of ruling out sign-and-trade options in the event Howard decides to bolt to one of L.A.'s rivals.
One source briefed on the Lakers' thinking told ESPN.com that, if the extra fifth year and nearly $30 million they can offer Howard isn't enough to hold off the competition, they would be forced to "look at everything."
For months, Lakers officials have privately indicated they have no interest in taking back long-term contracts in a sign-and-trade for Howard, preferring to preserve their salary-cap space for the summer of 2014 and focus on slashing their luxury-tax bill for the coming season.
If Howard were to choose Houston or Golden State, sign-and-trade discussions inevitably will be proposed by the team that lands Howard. And there were signals Thursday night that, in the case of Golden State, L.A. would have to at least consider a swap if either Harrison Barnes or Klay Thompson is added to the proposal along with Bogut.