Dwight Howard‘s name has been connected with number of teams ranging from the Nets, Lakers, Rockets, and Mavericks but a dark horse team to keep an eye on in the continued saga are the Atlanta Hawks.
If Howard does become an unrestricted free agent, the Hawks are expected to aggressively pursue the six-time All-Star and try to lure the superstar center back to his hometown.
After trading Joe Johnson to the Brooklyn Nets in exchange for expiring contracts, the Hawks cleared cap space where they can offer Howard a maximum contract next summer. Atlanta has just $17,225,000 committed in guaranteed contracts for the 2013-14 season and will have plenty of flexibility moving forward.
The Hawks tried to acquire Howard last offseason, offering several different packages to the Magic. However, Orlando wasn’t ready to part ways with Howard and talks didn’t go far.
Howard grew up in Atlanta and many of his relatives still reside in Georgia. He developed into one of the best high school players in recent memory at Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy, where he averaged 25 points, 18 rebounds, 8 blocks and 3.5 assists and led the team to the Class A state championship during his senior season. Howard was named Georgia’s Mr. Basketball in 2004, and he still spends some time in Atlanta during the offseason and his foundation occasionally holds events in the region.
Dwight also has two of his closest friends on the roster. Josh Smith and Anthony Morrow have known Howard for years and they could help the Hawks bring the center to Atlanta next summer.
Smith has known Howard since preschool. The two remained friends as they completed grade after grade. They formed one of the best AAU duos in the nation and talked about someday playing together in the NBA. When Smith got married two years ago, Howard was the best man in his wedding. Smith admits that he would love to reunite with Howard in Atlanta.