Harden recruiting Dwight
While Harden’s on-court production was outstanding, his biggest contribution may come during the offseason. That’s because Harden has already started recruiting big-time free agents to Houston, including unrestricted free agent Dwight Howard among others, according to sources close to the situation. If Houston is able to land Howard or another high-profile free agent this summer, they would instantly become a contender in the Western Conference and Harden would deserve much of the credit.
In recent months, Harden made it clear that he was planning to recruit free agents this summer. Now, with free agency still roughly six weeks away, he’s already starting to call and text some potential targets for Houston to sell them on the city, situation and future. Most free agents, including Howard, are big fans of Harden’s game and have a lot of respect for the up-and-coming shooting guard. On Wednesday afternoon, Harden confirmed via his Twitter account that he has been recruiting some players.
https://twitter.com/JHarden13/status/337305996332523520Lol yup! RT @ARankin11: @JHarden13 You been doing some recruiting big dawg?
Harden is allowed to recruit free agents and sell them on Houston, according to NBA rules. After LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh agreed to sign with the Miami HEAT in the summer of 2010, NBA Commissioner David Stern addressed the topic of players recruiting one another.
“The three players are totally, as our system has evolved, within their rights to talk to each other,” Stern said of James, Wade and Bosh. “That is not tampering or collusion that is prohibited. That’s our rule, right now.”
In the past, the Rockets struggled to attract notable free agents. They swung and missed on Chris Bosh and Nene among others. They also expressed interest in trading for Carmelo Anthony and Howard, but neither player was interested in signing a long-term deal in Houston at the time. However, that all changed when they acquired Harden. Now, other stars around the league see that the team is close to contending in the West and that they wouldn’t be the only star in Houston.
There’s no question that the Rockets have an intriguing pitch for free agents, which is why some of the top players on the market are already planning to sit down with Houston for a meeting once July 1 arrives.
This season, the Rockets made the playoffs and managed to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder twice, despite being the youngest team in the NBA. They’re only going to continue getting better and they have more financial flexibility than most teams. However, even if they do eventually run out of cap space, Rockets general manager Daryl Morey and his staff have shown that they can find cheap talent to fill out the roster, as evidenced by second-round pick Chandler Parsons (who is also recruiting free agents for Houston) and midseason signee Patrick Beverley. Both players made less than $1 million this past year, but emerged as key contributors during the season.
Houston is also a great place to live, especially if you’re a professional athlete, since there is no state income tax. There’s also no millionaire tax like there is in L.A. When you consider that most superstar players opt out of a five-year deal after the fourth year anyway to test free agency and secure a new long-term deal, the fifth year and extra $30 million that the Los Angeles Lakers can offer to Howard are pretty insignificant. Factor in Los Angeles’ state income tax, millionaire tax and exorbitant cost of living and Howard isn’t leaving much, if any, money on the table at all.
However, Harden’s presence is clearly the biggest draw for potential free agents and he has been doing his job recently to make sure they know he’d welcome them with open arms in Houston.