Mavericks are preparing hot pursuit of free agent Dwight Howard, source says

05/22/2013 9:32 PM

05/23/2013 4:25 PM

Now that the Los Angeles Clippers have refused to offer coach Vinny Del Negro a new contract, a source said Wednesday that the Dallas Mavericks believe they have a better chance of acquiring Dwight Howard than acquiring Chris Paul.

Howard is the Los Angeles Lakers’ center who will become a free agent on July 1, the day free agency begins across the league.

Paul, a point guard with the Los Angeles Clippers last season who also will be a free agent, likely will have a say-so on which coach the Clippers hire, meaning he’ll probably stay with the Clippers.

“I think Chris Paul, depending on who [the Clippers] hire, is going to stay with the Clippers,” the source said. “The Mavericks are really interested in Chris Paul, but I think they want Dwight more. They think they can make them a point guard.”

The source said two point guards who interest the Mavs are Golden State’s Jarrett Jack and Memphis’ Jerryd Bayless. Both players figured prominently in their teams’ runs in the current playoffs, and both will become free agents in July.

Meanwhile, the source said that the Mavs were aggressively shopping the No. 13 pick they garnered in Tuesday’s NBA Draft Lottery so they’d be able to create more salary cap space and make a stronger pitch to obtain Howard.

The Lakers are in the driver’s seat in that they can offer Howard a five-year, $118 million contract. The most any other team can offer Howard is a four-year, $87.6 million deal.

Forward Dirk Nowitzki has already said he’ll sign for significantly less money when he becomes a free agent next summer if it’ll help the Mavs secure Howard, who is generally considered the game’s best center.

Howard has not said what his future basketball plans are other than to mention that the Houston Rockets, Mavs and Lakers are on his wish list.

“They’re trying to go after [Howard] pretty hard,” the source said of the Mavs. “They think they’ve got as good enough of a chance as anybody, but I think Houston is a better fit for him.”

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