Lakers center Dwight Howard, left, is defended by forward Thomas Robinson,… (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles…)
The Houston Rockets have a trade lined up with the Portland Trail Blazers to send them Thomas Robinson, last year's fifth overall pick in the draft.
The Rockets are preparing to make a serious pitch to Lakers center Dwight Howard when the free-agent period starts at 9 p.m. PT Sunday.
By trading Robinson without bringing back any salary, Houston made a big step toward opening up enough salary-cap room to offer Howard the maximum allowed at $20.5 million ($88 million overall over four years).
The Lakers can give Howard a five-year deal at $118 million, but the veteran center will consider a number of offers before making a decision. After his exit meeting with the Lakers in April, Howard said his driving force in choosing a team is finding "happiness."
The Blazers will send two future second-round picks along with Kostas Papanikolaou (48th pick in 2012) and Marko Todorovic (45th pick in last week's draft) to Houston for Robinson.
Robinson, a second-year forward, was drafted by the Sacramento Kings but traded midseason to the Rockets.
Houston may look to make other changes should Howard choose to sign. As is, they have a formidable roster with the addition of Howard with James Harden, Chandler Parsons, Omer Asik, Jeremy Lin, Patrick Beverley, Donatas Motiejunas and Greg Smith, among others.
The league recently projected the salary cap to fall at $58.5 million, although that's only an estimate. Technically, the Rockets would have $19.2 million in space, but the team has some non-guaranteed players -- and may look to trade Terrence Jones and Royce White to push the number up to the necessary $20.5 million.
Robinson was the big piece to move at $3.5 million. The Blazers will have enough cap room in July to absorb his contract for draft picks.
Lakers waive point guard Chris Duhon
Kobe Bryant says Achilles' tendon is improving
Kobe Bryant wants Dwight Howard to return but won't push him
Email Eric Pincus at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @EricPincus.