The Rockets pursuit of a star big man, and more specifically Dwight Howard claimed another casualty Thursday. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo reports that the Rockets will use their amnesty clause on veteran power forward Luis Scola in a move that seems to indicate a Dwight Howard trade will come in the near future. Under the amnesty clause, the Rockets will still owe Luis Scola the bulk of his contract, but that money will not count against their salary cap total.
Scola has three years and $21 million left on his contract. The Rockets are clearing space in pursuit of a Dwight Howard deal.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) July 12, 2012
Once this move becomes official, reportedly Friday, teams under the cap will be able to bid on Scola. It's rumored the Mavericks are interested, but regardless of who wins, Scola's new team will be responsible for the amount they bid; the Rockets will be responsible for the remaining money left of the $21 million he's still owed (don't ever say Les Alexander is cheap). If no team claims Scola, he becomes a free-agent (very unlikely). The Rockets have already parted ways with Courtney Lee and Kyle Lowry this off-season to clear up cap space, but it appears they needed more room because a Dwight Howard trade would likely include absorbing several bad contracts from the Magic.
This move only makes sense if the Rockets know for sure that a Dwight Howard deal can be executed soon after Scola's official release. Of all the Rockets rumored deals recently, I'd prefer the 3-team option that would bring Andrew Bynum here, but if that option is off the table, I'm all for making the move for Dwight Howard. I prefer the Bynum move because reports indicate that there's a much better chance of him re-signing long term, but even if Howard is one-and-done, I still think it's worth the shot. Howard has made it very clear that he won't re-sign with any team he's traded to except Brooklyn, but he's changed his mind before and maybe the Rockets being the only team able to offer him a full max contract will persuade him to stay. If not, the worst case scenario is the Rockets start the rebuild process from scratch. I've long been in favor of tanking and doing a complete rebuild and with what they've already lost off of last years team, plus what it'll take to get Howard; if he bolts, they'll have no choice but to hit the reset button. I think trading for Howard is a win/win situation; either he re-signs longterm, or he bolts and sets you up to tank and acquire high draft picks to rebuild around. I know Howard leaving after one season would seem like an awful scenario, but nearly every team at the top has built their team around high lottery picks. Just look at the Spurs (Tim Duncan), Thunder (Durant & Westbrook), Bulls (Derrick Rose), Heat (Dwyane Wade), and Clippers (Blake Griffin); it's the best way to build a team for longterm success.
On a personal note, Scola has been my favorite Rockets player for the last several seasons so I am a little sad to see him go. I've always felt he was an underrated player who put up numbers worthy of being an All-Star but was ignored to some extent because the Rockets have missed the playoffs for three straight seasons. Over the last three seasons, Scola averaged 17.2 points, 8.4 rebounds, and 2.3 assists per game while shooting 51% from the field. Wherever he ends up, hopefully not Dallas, I hope he does well.