Some Josh confidantes are even convinced they've pinned down Howard's future team as either being the Raptors or the Heat.
From the Mavs, more denials: "That comes completely out of left field,'' says one team source.
From an NBA exec: "A lot of teams want Josh Howard. It's just a matter of what Dallas wants for him.''
From Josh: Well, he's allowing his on-court performance to do his talking for him. And therefore: Silence.
And of course, you know what they say: Just because Josh might be paranoid doesn't mean other teams aren't out to get him … "get him'' in trade, that is.
The problem with these specific rumors resounding from those close to Josh isn't that his name isn't being discussed. Teams are exploring his availability … and frankly, those talks are occurring just as Dallas' frustrations with him are accumulating.
No, the problem with what Josh/Josh's people believe is that when we tinker with matches in Toronto and Miami, we come up largely empty.
In Toronto? DallasBasketball.com has been told very specifically that the Mavs (and other teams) believe Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo when he says they have every intention of retaining Chris Bosh through next summer, and then attempting to re-sign the free agent at that time. It's worth noting that all involved are very, very aware of the sign-and-trade possibilities that exist there … but again, that's well into the future. So forget Dallas native Bosh.
Short of that, we can play with the name and numbers of point guard Jose Calderon, who could be helpful to Dallas as Jason Kidd continues to get worn to the nub. … But no, there isn't an ideal Howard trade fit here.
In Miami? As with Bosh, let's not pretend we're justified in pre-deadline screaming of the name "Dwyane Wade'' here. Miami is trying to eventually add to Wade, not subtract him. Is Miami giving up on young point guard Mario Chalmers? How about troublesome power forward Michael Beasley? Do they still want to dump Dorell Wright? Um, Quentin Richardson and Josh Howard are salary fits, but …
Again, we're reaching as we struggle to find ways to total the $8.6 million the Mavs need back to match J-Ho's salary AND upgrade the roster.
By the time we near Feb.18, maybe the Mavs' goal here will be revealed to be a way to facilitate a three-way deal that can land them Sacramento's Kevin Martin or Washington's Caron Butler or Philly's Andre Iguodala or the Clippers' Chris Kaman or somebody of that ilk. Maybe that's why we get front-office denials regarding specific contact with specific teams. As we spit-ball, that's as logical as we can get as we try to explain the Howard camp's Raptors/Heat thoughts.
Heck, maybe some of this is due to a little paranoia from Josh. … and that's one thing that absolutely fits.
Last Thursday, Cuban participated in a Dallas Morning News story that praised Howard for his sacrifice to the team.
"Josh has worked so hard to be a good teammate and fit in that it's taken a little of the edge off of him,'' Cuban said. "We've asked him to kind of change who he is a little bit, be -- for lack of a better word -- invisible. People were talking about him off the court. And he's done everything perfectly. He's been the ultimate professional and that sometimes takes an edge off of what happens on the court.''
More "Father Knows Best'' handling of J-Ho, to be sure.
But is this also a "Step Away From Your Crack Dealer'' proclamation from Cuban?
Are the Mavs prepared to let the deadline pass (saving a Howard trade for the summer) and release "We Love Our Boys In Blue'' proclamation from GM Donnie Nelson?
Now, predicting a trade is a silly proposition. Too many moving parts and all. But trust me: The people who lead this team – Cuban and Donnie and Carlisle and others, all the way into the locker room -- are not happy with the Mavs' recent performance. And they are not ignorant in regard to some of the efforts that must be made, within reason, to improve the club and take advantage of the opportunity of contention.
That means that for the next two weeks, Dallas will welcome phone calls about Drew Gooden, about Erick Dampier and, yes, about Josh Howard.
J-Ho may be wrong about the specific teams. But he is not wrong otherwise.
Howard has an All-Star berth on his resume and was considered the "MVP'' of last year's Round 1 playoff win over the Spurs. However, he's experiencing career lows almost across the board, and he's now rarely on the floor for the Mavs in crunch time. He is coming off a loss in Utah in which he played just 11 minutes (a season-low) while missing three of his four shots.
For this team, at this time, all things considered … is Josh Howard as a talent bordering on irrelevant?
Yet some teams may see him as attractive for his talent or potential talent. Others may see him as attractive for his $10.9-million expiring contract.
And where does Josh see himself?
He was among the Mavs who made quick exits from Tuesday's practice at the AAC, so I didn't get to ask him. But it is not difficult to see that in some ways, Josh has checked out, that his level of "sensitivity'' (maybe the most common word used to describe Josh by those who know him) is high, that on top of suffering from sore ankles and a bum wrist he's now battling a nasty case of paranoia.
Where does Josh Howard see himself?
According to some close to him, Josh Howard seems himself very specifically in another team's uniform.