Dwight Howard being chased by Houston
As the Houston Rockets prepare for a run at Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard, they've secured another top 20 pick in the NBA draft, league sources told Yahoo! Sports.
The Rockets traded forward Chase Budinger to the Minnesota Timberwolves for the 18th overall pick in the draft, giving Houston the 14th, 16th and 18th picks in Thursday's draft.
The Rockets included the rights to Israeli Lior Eliyahu in the deal with Minnesota.
Budinger, a second-round pick in 2009, developed into a solid performer at small forward for the Rockets. At 6-foot-7, he averaged 9.6 points and 3.7 rebounds for Houston last season. He'll have a chance to play significant minutes for the Timberwolves.
Houston has been undaunted by Howard's private insistence that he wants a trade to only the Brooklyn Nets or Dallas Mavericks, sources said. Houston is willing to make a deal for Howard, believing it can convince him to re-sign before he becomes a free agent in the summer of 2013. Rockets GM Daryl Morey has been determined to use the assets on his roster to secure a high-level league star.
Houston will work to flip those three picks (14, 16 and 18) into higher picks that could be used for an impact player out of Thursday's draft, or to further sweeten a deal for Howard or another league star, sources said.
Howard had back surgery in May and will be sidelined throughout the summer. He bypassed a chance to become a free agent this summer but has shown the Magic no indication he wants to re-sign with them long-term after another falling out with the organization near season's end.
Ben Gordon dealt to Bobcats
The deal will save the Pistons approximately $14.7 million on the two years remaining on Gordon's contract. He's slated to make $25.6 million over the term of his deal.
Maggette has $10.9 million left on an expiring contract.
After signing a five-year, $55 million free-agent contract with Detroit in 2009, Gordon struggled in his three years with the Pistons. He averaged 12.5 points per game a season ago. Gordon had been one of the league's prolific young scorers in his first five seasons with the Bulls.
Maggette, 32, will join his sixth NBA team. He averaged 15 points for the Bobcats last season.
The Pistons' draft pick is also protected through the eighth selection in 2014 and No. 1 in 2015. It is unprotected if the deal extends to 2016.
JR Smith declines second year with Knicks
NEW YORK (AP) -- The New York Knicks say JR Smith has declined his second-year contract option and will become a free agent.
The Knicks could still re-sign the reserve swingman, who averaged 12.5 points last season, when he becomes a free agent Sunday. He was scheduled to make about $2.5 million next season but could earn slightly more by signing a new deal with the Knicks.
Smith joined the Knicks in February after playing in China during the lockout. He informed the Knicks of his decision on Tuesday.
The Los Angeles Clippers have engaged in trade discussions to bring Lamar Odom back to the L.A. team that drafted him, according to sources close to the situation.
Yet the deal, sources said, could hinge on the willingness of a third team to take on the contract of Clippers veteran guard Mo Williams, which would allow the Dallas Mavericks to send Odom to the Clippers with no significant money coming back to the Mavericks.
With a Friday deadline looming for the Mavericks to buy out the final year of Odom's contract for $2.4 million, Dallas officials have green-lighted Odom's agent, Jeff Schwartz, to try to find a new home for Odom this week via trade. The Mavericks and Schwartz also have discussed pushing the deadline back into July if an Odom trade can't be struck before Friday.
The Mavericks' interest in an Odom deal, though, is purely to gain financial flexibility, which likely necessitates a third team to take on Williams. If no trade can be struck, either this week or before an adjusted deadline, Dallas is expected to eventually buy Odom out and make him a free agent, with big-market teams such as Miami and New York also planning to pursue him in that scenario.