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Dwight Howard Rumors: Can Houston Keep Him Long-Term?

With their impending use of the amnesty provision on Luis Scola, the Houston Rockets are clearly going all-in on Dwight Howard, as they now have by far the best possible package -- salary cap space, young players and future draft picks -- the Orlando Magic could receive in any trade.

So unless Orlando is willing to gamble on Andrew Bynum (who is also a free agent at the end of the 2012 season) or keeping Howard long-term, it's looking like Houston could end up having the superstar they've coveted since Yao Ming's retirement.

The real question, for teams like the Dallas Mavericks, is whether Howard would be willing to sign with the Rockets long-term. Houston has had to gut their roster to acquire Howard, similar to the way the Brooklyn Nets went all-in on Deron Williams two years ago.

And like Brooklyn, the Rockets would have the cap space to go after another max player in free agency, with their likely target being Los Angeles Clippers PG Chris Paul, who would be the last star player from the draft classes of 2003-2007 not to sign a long-term deal.

Would Paul be more interested in teaming up with Howard or staying in LA with Blake Griffin? And could Dallas convince the two to take slightly less money to team up with Dirk Nowitzki for a Big Three?

If any of this sounds familiar, it's because people were asking many of the same questions about Deron Williams last off-season. Mavericks fans can only hope the sequel has a better ending.

For all the latest news and notes on the Mavericks free agency plans, stay tuned to the SB Nation Dallas story-stream as well as Mavs Moneyball.

Photographs by jamesbrandon, jdtornow, phlezk, flygraphix, mcdlttx, tomasland, and literalbarrage used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.