Once again, the Dwight Howard sweepstakes is underway.
Despite Howard's well-documented history of intransigence and histrionics, he is by far the most tantalizing free agent on the market this summer. At least five teams are going all in to try and land his services, giving the center a lot of leverage to insist upon certain conditions from his suitors.
Howard's latest request? Like LeBron before him, Howard reportedly wants to be part of his own Big Three to ensure he has a good shot at a title for years to come.
Shortly after the free agent negotiating period opened at midnight on July 1, Howard met with a Rockets team so eager to sign him they brought in Hall of Famers Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler, plus Dikembe Mutombo and Yao Ming, to help make their pitch. Howard, according to the Houston Chronicle, wanted to know what the Rockets envisioned for their team going forward — and specifically if they would pursue a second top-priced talent if they signed him.
Under that scenario, the Rockets would wind up with Howard and another star to complement All-Star James Harden, making them the latest iteration of the NBA's Big Three.
Howard's demands are understandable, given that the formula has worked for other teams in recent years.
The Heat landed LeBron James and Chris Bosh in 2010 to complete a trio with Dwyane Wade, and then reeled off three straight finals appearances and two straight championships. A few years prior, the Boston Celtics won their own title the season they signed Kevin Garnett and traded for Ray Allen to go along with longtime Celtic Paul Pierce.
The Rockets have already dumped Thomas Robinson, the fifth overall pick in last year's draft, and waived two reserve guards specifically to clear cap space for Howard. And they're reportedly shopping guard Jeremy Lin and center Omer Asik to make even more room, which could allow them to add that second max contract Howard is so interested in.
No surprise, then, that the Rockets are considered the frontrunners to land Howard.
As for Howard's other options, the Lakers, Mavericks, Hawks, and Warriors are all interested in acquiring his services. Among those teams, the Lakers have made the most aggressive push, and appear to have the most to offer.
Los Angeles, boasting the talents of Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, and Pau Gasol, should be better once everyone is back in the lineup and healthy. The team is publicly pleading with Howard to pick them, erecting billboards around the city and splashing the Staples Center with the simple message "Stay." Players past and present have even taken to Twitter begging Howard to do just that as well.