Those expecting fireworks from free agency will have to settle for the Fourth of July instead. That's because Dwight Howard has all of us on hold. As if we didn't see that coming from a guy who never could make up his mind quickly.
Actually, Howard is doing the right thing by taking his time, getting away and clearing his head and hoping a decision will make its way inside (ESPN reports that Howard hopes to decide by Friday).
Until then, here's how the major players and teams involved in free agency are looking heading into the first weekend:
Josh Smith. He's waiting to see what happens with Howard. They were AAU teammates in Atlanta and have long discussed the possibility of reliving their childhood as adults, but it's a bit more complicated when money enters the discussion. A Smith-Howard tandem can only realistically happen with the Rockets, who have room for both. Smith will most likely head to Houston, though, with or without Howard.
Rockets. Three years ago the Heat had Dwyane Wade and a ton of cap room to sign two A-listers. The Rockets have the same; just substitute James Harden for Wade. Their blueprint has Howard and Smith joining Harden. As for the rest of the roster, that depends on what Houston gives up in a sign-and-trade with the Lakers or Hawks. Omer Asik is all but gone in such a scenario, and Jeremy Lin likely is too. Does that make the Rockets a title contender, playing without a reliable point guard in the event Lin is gone? It's asking a lot of Harden to play a bit at the point, although he does get the ball in tight situations.
Bucks. Losing J.J. Redick isn't the issue. Renting Redick for three months is the issue. What were the Bucks thinking when they gave up Tobias Harris for Redick last spring, knowing Redick could leave as an unrestricted free agent? Harris is exactly the type of player the Bucks need: young (only 20), promising and cheap. And with Monta Ellis following Redick out the door, the Bucks -- they're panicking, now -- could overpay O.J. Mayo and Brandon Jennings just to save face. Is there a plan here? Pencil them in for the worst record next season.
Clippers. They were exposed in the playoff loss to Memphis as a lousy outside shooting team, and in a single, powerful swoop they addressed that flaw with not one, but two shooting saviors: Redick and Jared Dudley. When the acquisition of Redick and Dudley was in the works, the Clippers quickly pulled out of the Howard sweepstakes and will begin the Doc Rivers era without a quality big man besides Blake Griffin. If DeAndre Jordan learns a post move this summer, they have a shot.
Chris Paul. Sealed and delivered. That was quick and easy for the Clippers, wasn't it?
Andre Iguodala. A four-year, $52 million offer from Sacramento was pulled because Iguodala refused to give the Kings a firm answer. Obviously, signing with Sacramento would've been a money move, nothing else, because the Kings aren't going anywhere fast. Iguodala wants it all, money and a contender, and may have to choose. Returning to the Nuggets is still in play.
Mavericks. They're a long shot for Howard and are looking at potentially wasting another of Dirk Nowitzki's sunset years. That 2011 championship seems so long ago. It makes you wonder if the Mavericks are better off trading Dirk and getting something for him before he hits the aging wall.
Tyreke Evans. His numbers slowly declined in Sacramento after a solid rookie season, but that wasn't enough to scare off the Pelicans, who threw him a $44 million carrot. Do the Kings match and keep a 23-year-old, or is that too much of an overpay by the Pelicans? With new ownership on board, the Kings might grudgingly match.
Pacers. They gave David West a bit more than they wanted ($12 million per) and now will have three players making eight figures when Paul George joins West and Roy Hibbert next summer. Larry Bird said the team will not touch the luxury tax, which could make it a challenge to keep Lance Stephenson. C.J. Watson, who can play both guard spots, was a nice get for the bench. Do they deal Danny Granger now, or let him leave next summer?
Kevin Martin. He ditched the Thunder for a chance to start in Minnesota and reunite with Rick Adelman, who groomed his career. If nothing else, this looks bad for the Thunder. You think OKC should've kept Harden for this season and then used a sign-and-trade on him this summer? With Martin leaving, they get nothing in return.
Manu Ginobili. His new two-year deal will expire along with Tim Duncan's and Tony Parker's. As it should.
Tiago Splitter. He got $9 million a season from the Spurs. And you wonder why Howard is worth twice as much.
Hawks. Danny Ferry cleared cap room last summer when he took over by shipping Joe Johnson and refusing to give Smith an extension, but now could find it hard for anyone to take the Hawks' money. Ferry will not max out Smith, who isn't expected to return, and therefore Ferry will wisely save his money for 2014 instead of spending it now. The Hawks can use next season to groom their two No. 1 picks and allow Lou Williams to return from knee surgery and hope Al Horford doesn't become depressed.
J.R. Smith. He never really had a serious outside offer, and the market was established by J.J. Redick: $6 million a season. So Smith will re-up with the Knicks at that rate, which is twice what he earned last season -- making him one of the biggest bargains in the NBA. He's made for New York anyway, and he and Andrea Bargnani can spread the floor and wait for a pass from Carmelo Anthony that may or may not ever arrive.
Warriors. They really don't have money for a big-name free agent but do have the goods in a sign and trade. They're anxious to dump David Lee and the $44 million owned to him, especially after they showed in the playoffs that they can win without Lee. Most likely, the Warriors must wait until next summer for free agents, after their dead-weight contracts expire.