With Dwight Howard decisions, you never know until he makes a call -- and even then it's always subject to review and recanting.
So, while there are some indications Howard could pick his favored team in free agency Friday, and an ESPN report that he's strongly considering the Warriors, everyone really just has to sit and wait.
I'd still say the Warriors are a long shot, mostly because they're over the salary cap, can't sign Howard outright and would need multiple things to happen simultaneously to acquire him.
But the Warriors are one step further than most of us would have ever guessed, which prompts me believe it might be time for a quick Dwight Acquisition Frequently Asked Questions and My Realistic Answers ...
DAQ: Do you really think Howard is interested in coming to the Warriors?
ANSWER: Co-owner Joe Lacob and general manager Bob Myers probably wouldn't have jumped so deep into this without some inclination that Howard was going to take them seriously.
And voilà, he apparently is taking them seriously.
All sides know how tricky this would be, however -- the Warriors are over the cap and therefore would have to work out a sign-and-trade with the Lakers to do this cleanly, and Los Angeles might not be too interested in that.
But the Warriors' contingent may have reached Dwight on a lot of different levels during their presentation in Los Angeles on Monday -- from a great potential two-man core with Stephen Curry, to Mark Jackson's persuasiveness, to the locker room's spiritual base, and to the Warriors' big hopes for a splashy San Francisco arena.
For Howard, I think the Warriors are a fun, offbeat discussion. And once you get him thinking, you never know ...
DAQ: Why can't Howard just say he wants to go to the Warriors and demand that the Lakers trade him here?
ANSWER: Even if Howard wants go to the Warriors, he still needs the Lakers' cooperation to do it without major complications.
Basically, the Lakers would have to believe there's a strong chance Howard will sign with under-the-cap Houston or Dallas outright (which means the Lakers would get nothing in return). And that could push the Lakers to deal with the Warriors to recoup something.
Otherwise, there's no motivation for the Lakers to help out the Warriors ... and play Howard four times a season.
DAQ: Could the Warriors and Lakers agree to a deal if it comes to that?
ANSWER: That's up to negotiations. We know the Warriors' offer would start with Andrew Bogut.
But the Lakers probably aren't too interested in taking Bogut's salary for next season, putting them way over the luxury-tax line.
The Warriors would probably have to sweeten up the offer to include Harrison Barnes or Klay Thompson or both.
The Warriors could also offer either Andris Biedrins' or Richard Jefferson's expiring contract, and maybe take back Steve Nash's remaining two years, which would help the Lakers' books even more. But I'm not sure that's a great draw for the Lakers.
DAQ: Can the Warriors get Howard without going through the Lakers -- say, by having Atlanta sign Dwight with its space and then trading him to the Warriors?
ANSWER: Unless the Warriors suddenly can create $20 million in cap space, they have to go through the Lakers in any scenario where Howard gets his max contract.
Only the Lakers can sign-and-trade Howard. He can't sign with another team to set up a deal to go elsewhere.
DAQ: Wait, what did you say about suddenly creating cap space?
ANSWER: It's theoretically possible for the Warriors to dump a bundle of contracts to a team with massive cap room to create the $20.5 million slot that it would take to sign Howard outright to a max contract. ESPN.com is reporting the Warriors are actually trying to do this.
The Warriors' current payroll is $69 million, which means they would have to offload more than $31 million in contracts and get no contracts in return.
An example: Bogut and David Lee and Thompson for nothing, just to create the space.
Or Bogut and Jefferson and Brandon Rush. Again, for nothing.
But the Hawks wouldn't need expiring deals to create space next summer because they already have the space. This is an unlikely scenario.
DAQ: Can the Warriors sign Dwight to their midlevel exception for one year at $5 million and promise that he'll get his long-term money when they have cap room next summer?
ANSWER: In two letters, N-O.
First off, it's against NBA rules. Teams have been crushed by the league office for secret promises like that (see: Joe Smith, Minnesota Timberwolves losing three first-round picks).
Also, even if the Warriors passed NBA muster, Howard would lose out on a lot of dollars from the four-year, $88 million max he could get this summer for all outside bidding teams, or the five-year, $117 million deal he could get from the Lakers.
Howard would lose $15 million from this season's salary, just to start, and working through the whole two-stage deal, he'd have at least a $23 million short fall in this scenario.
There are a lot of ways this could go, but trying to flaunt one of the NBA's strictest rules and asking Howard to take a $23 million pay cut just isn't one of them.
Contact Tim Kawakami at firstname.lastname@example.org.