The Houston Rockets, who enter the All-Star break one of the NBA's most disappointing teams at 27-28 overall, have begun contacting teams about a potential trade of veteran big man Dwight Howard, a league source told ESPN's Chris Broussard in confirming a report by Yahoo! Sports.
The source told ESPN that the Rockets are doing their "due diligence," as Howard's long-term future in Houston is uncertain. He is expected to bypass the $23.3 million he is scheduled to earn in 2016-17 to become an unrestricted free agent July 1.
The trade deadline is Feb. 18.
League executives told Yahoo! Sports that Howard's agent, Dan Fegan, and the Rockets are working together on potential destinations for Howard, an eight-time All-Star who turned 30 in December.
However, Fegan, in a statement to ESPN on Thursday, said that wasn't the case: "I'm not privy to what the Rockets are doing or not doing with respect to Dwight Howard. What I can say, with 100 percent certainty, is that Dwight has not and has never asked the Rockets for a trade. And neither have I."
Howard, reached Thursday by ESPN's Marc Stein, said in reference to Fegan's statement: "Dan's statement is true.I have not asked the Rockets to trade me, nor have I talked about right trades. I want to win. I want this situation to work. I chose this team. And I'm not running because we have been faced with some adversity."
After the defeat, Howard and star guard James Harden met with general manager Daryl Morey and Bickerstaff "long into the night" to discuss Houston's woes. Howard was in good spirits after the chat, according to ESPN's Calvin Watkins, but wouldn't get into specifics about the meeting.
When told about Bickerstaff's "broken team" comments, Howard said he didn't want to talk negatively about his team. However, he said he is shocked by the Rockets' record and noted that his teammates have to start playing together.
When asked what about the team is broken, Howard said, "I'm not going to talk about what's broken. It's all we do is we talk about the issues that we have. Nobody is being positive."
Howard is averaging 14.6 points and 12.0 rebounds this season and has played particularly well this month, with averages of 16.5 points and 14.5 rebounds in four games.
This is his third season in Houston. He signed a four-year deal worth about $88 million in 2013.
Sources previously told ESPN that the Rockets were approaching the deadline intending to keep Howard for the remainder of the season. However, the team enters the All-Star break having lost six of eight games and in ninth place in the Western Conference.
ESPN's Marc Stein contributed to this report.