Dwight Howard had a few different teams he was interested in during last summer’s foray into free agency.
The New York Knicks were not one of them.
As the big man said ahead of the Atlanta Hawks’ overtime victory against those same Knicks on Wednesday night, per the New York Daily News‘ Stefan Bondy:
Phil Jackson could’ve gone in a different direction from signing Joakim Noah to a four-year contract (Dwyane Wade comes to mind).
But one player who apparently wasn’t so keen on playing center in New York was Atlanta’s Dwight Howard, who Wednesday strongly denied an offseason report that the Knicks were among the teams he considered as a free-agent destination.
“I never said that. I love New York, the Knicks are a great team. But that was something that was a lie,” said Howard, who drew interest from the Celtics and Blazers, among other teams, in free agency. “That was a rumor that was being put out there. Like I said, I have no issues with New York or the fans or the people there, but it’s just something I’ve never said.”
The Knicks ended up signing Joakim Noah to a four-year, $72.6 million deal, so the idea that they were interested in Howard is hardly farfetched. But it’s equally believable that Howard had no interest in them, no matter what the reports said.
Agents and player camps use big markets as leverage all the time. The thinking is that if other teams believe Chicago, Los Angeles, Boston and New York are interested it’ll be easier for the players to get more money elsewhere—or at least snag a contract more quickly.
There might have been some merit to this theory for Howard. The NBA’s salary cap exploded, and he wasn’t a no-brainer max-contract candidate. If the Hawks thought he was in line for a deal longer than three years or one worth more money, maybe that would have forced their hands.
But that tactic isn’t as useful as it once was. Big markets still sell, but they aren’t the free-agent Goliaths they were once considered. So even if Howard’s camp leaked a manufactured report that stated he and the Knicks were doing the damn dance, it probably didn’t impact his market much, if at all.