Free agency kicks off and the dealing has begun

Kirby Lee/USA TODAYAt 12:01 a.m. ET on Monday, NBA teams will officially be allowed to talk to free agents and make their pitches to them. However, teams can’t officially sign free agents until the moratorium period ends on July 10.

But that does not mean teams will not be recruiting like crazy. There have already been numerous rumblings regarding different players, so here is a breakdown of the latest from around the association.

Dwight Howard is the top story of free agency again

At 9:01 p.m. PST on Sunday, the Houston Rockets will meet with Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard and his representatives, including his agent, Dan Fegan, a source confirmed what other media outlets earlier reported. The Rockets will send a contingency that includes general manager Daryl Morey, players James Harden and Chandler Parsons, former Rockets great Hakeem Olajuwon, coach Kevin McHale, and team owner Les Alexander,’s Jeff Goodman reported. Howard has been intrigued by the idea of playing with Harden, who is a rising star, while still being able to be the focal point of the offense, sources said. “Howard would feel at home in Houston,” the source said.

After the Rockets, the Dallas Mavericks, Atlanta Hawks and Golden State Warriors will meet with Howard in Los Angeles, an NBA source said. And, finally, the Lakers will get their chance to make their final pitch to the All-Star center and Howard is expected to make a final decision sometime shortly after that.

For the Lakers, a league source said that Kobe Bryant will be present in the meeting with Howard and will try to convince Howard that he can still play a major role in the Lakers offense, and that the team has a good chance of winning a title in the near future. Ramona Shelburne of reports Steve Nash will also be present.

FansidedOJ Mayo a big name as well

Mayo recently chose to become a free agent and is already drawing plenty of interest from multiple teams.

The Minnesota Timberwolves have expressed the most interest in Mayo, a source said, but the Milwaukee Bucks, Portland Trailblazers, and Utah Jazz are all also expected to chase Mayo in free agency. A return to the Mavericks for Mayo is highly unlikely, a source said.

Andrea Bargnani on his way to New York?

The Toronto Raptors have been trying to deal Andrea Bargnani for many months, but have had no success. But now the New York Knicks are close to acquiring Bargnani, a source said. In return, the Raptors would get Marcus Camby, Steve Novak, and two draft picks. Howard Beck of the New York Times reported that the draft picks would be a first rounder and second-rounder respectively, but that is unconfirmed.

The deal is not done yet, and the two sides still have a few wrinkles to work out. “Almost there” is how a source close to the discussions described the progress between the teams this afternoon.

Beck reported later that the NBA did not approve the deal under the 2012-13 cap and the two teams will have to make some adjustments to make it fit under the 2013-14 cap when the number is determined.

As Beck reports, the teams still very much want to make a deal.