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Does the Doc Rivers trade to the Clippers help the Rockets in pursuit of Dwight Howard?

Doc Rivers has reportedly been allowed out of his contract in Boston, allowing him to sign with the Clippers. How does this affect the Rockets' free agency plans?

Gary A. Vasquez-US PRESSWIRE

In a deal that has been coming for weeks on end, the Celtics have reportedly agreed to let Doc Rivers out of his contract so that he may join the Clippers. As a Rockets blog, Doc Rivers' move in itself doesn't affect the us very much, but the deal does have a number of concussive effects on the free agency market.

Marc Stein of ESPN is reporting that this trade will seal the deal to keep Chris Paul in Los Angeles when the clock strikes midnight on July 1st, thereby eliminating the Rockets from that chase. The Rockets had been planning to go after Paul this summer, but to say those talks were anything more than exploratory would be pretty optimistic.

This is based off observation instead of inside information, but I never got the feeling that Chris Paul was remotely interested in the Rockets. No report of any magnitude indicated that Paul had even given any hints that he would come to Houston.

Yes, there was the dream scenario drawn up on message boards where the Rockets signed Howard and then turned around and acquired Paul in a sign-and-trade deal, but the only place that seemed to get traction was in cyberspace. The bottom line is that Paul was likely not coming to the Rockets, and though Paul's probable commitment to the Clippers eliminates Houston from contending for his services, they were already all but out of the chase.

What the deal does do for the Rockets, however, is change the complexion of the race for Dwight Howard. If Paul does return to the Clippers next year, the Hawks' plan for world domination that they pitched to their season ticket holders become impossible. Not only will they lose out on Paul, but they likely will also lose out on Howard as well.

With Paul staying in Los Angeles, the Hawks would be forced to pitch Howard on a team of Horford, Lou Williams, Jeff Teague, and Josh Smith. A good team, certainly, but nothing that would particularly overwhelm him. Howard himself has never expressed an independent interest in joining the Hawks, and without Paul, they don't have a chance.

And now, with just over a week to go before the start of free agency, the chase for Dwight Howard appears that it will come down to four teams: the Warriors, Mavericks, Lakers and Rockets. The Rockets and Lakers have the edge, but anything can happen. We're talking about Dwight Howard here.

At the end of the day, I leave it to you all, the readers. How do you think the Doc Rivers hire and subsequent commitment by Chris Paul is going to affect the free agency market for the Rockets? Was Paul ever truly in play for the Rockets? Did you view the Hawks as a legitimate threat to land Howard or Paul? Let us know in the comments!