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Hawks’ Josh Smith On Way Out, Dwight Howard In?

Atlanta Hawks’ forward Josh Smith and longtime friend Dwight Howard are being heavily courted by NBA teams. But a reuniting of the former AAU teammates appears unlikely, although both young players met with the Houston Rockets.

Howard had dinner with a host of Rockets players and executives late Sunday night who made a strong pitch for him to bolt the Los Angeles Lakers. Meanwhile, Smith, who is coming off his best season as a pro, also met with Rocket executives, in addition to the Detroit Pistons, around the same time Howard was dining with the Rockets, according to reports.

The Hawks selected Smith out of high school with the 17th pick in the NBA Draft in 2004. He has had a somewhat turbulent time in Atlanta, his hometown, but has been a versatile player and sometimes dominant. Still, Atlanta general manager Danny Ferry did not sound as if he was interested in keeping the 6-foot-9 forward around.

“Josh has been a valuable part of the Hawks for the past nine years,” Ferry said Monday, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “We appreciate and respect what he has done. I also respect that he enters unrestricted free agency for the first time and wants to consider his options. We are in the same situation and we have to determine what is best for us moving forward as well. We will certainly communicate with Josh and his agents.”

Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, Howard is expect to meet with Ferry, new coach Mike Budenholzer and co-owner Bruce Levenson. They do not seem to have an exciting plan.

“We’ll sit down and have a conversation with Dwight and see what Dwight’s thoughts are, what questions he might have and explain our intent on how we are going forward,” Ferry said.

Howard, who attended Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy, is reportedly considering the Lakers, Dallas Mavericks and Golden State Warriors along with the Rockets and Hawks. LA can re-sign him for more than any other team, $118 million over five years. Anyone else, save for a sign-and-trade deal, could pay him $88 million for four years.

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