Sources: Rockets looming as strongest suitor to sign Josh Smith

Adrian WojnarowskiThe Vertical

The Houston Rockets are emerging as the strongest suitor to sign forward Josh Smith, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

After the Detroit Pistons made the stunning move of releasing Smith, he's expected to clear waivers on Wednesday and become an unrestricted free agent. The Pistons owed Smith $26 million on his contract running through the 2016 season.

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Houston has aggressively pursued Smith for the past two years, failing in the summer of 2013 to agree to a sign-and-trade agreement with Atlanta to acquire him. Before ultimately signing a four-year $56 million deal with Detroit, Smith had long had interest in finding a way to join the Rockets, sources said.

Houston briefly discussed trade possibilities with Detroit this season, but it was impossible for the Rockets to have absorbed his salary without giving up Dwight Howard or James Harden, sources said.

Howard is a childhood friend of Smith's, dating to their days growing up in Atlanta, and is a strong advocate of signing Smith. He'll be part of recruiting Smith to sign with the Rockets.

The Rockets, Los Angeles Clippers, Sacramento Kings, Dallas Mavericks and Miami Heat have already expressed an interest in signing Smith to Smith's representatives, league sources said.

Houston can use its biannual exception – worth $2.077 million annually – to lure Smith. Most teams with an interest in Smith, including the Clippers, Kings, Mavericks and Heat, can offer only the veteran's minimum of $1.4 million.

The Rockets want to utilize Smith's ability to block shots, rebound and pass as a unique complement at the power forward to Howard. Clearly, Smith's shot selection has to improve, but the Rockets are strong believers in the corner 3-point shot, especially with their ability to offensive rebound.

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