Hornets, Rockets had exploratory talks on Dwight Howard deal

The Charlotte Hornets are among the teams to have expressed trade interest in Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard, according to league sources.

Sources told ESPN.com that the Hornets and Rockets have held exploratory talks on a potential Howard deal since Houston made him available last week. But one source close to the talks expressed pessimism Tuesday that the sides will be able to find common ground on a deal.

The Rockets are believed to be seeking at least one future first-round pick for Howard, who is earning $22.3 million this season and is expected to exercise his right to decline next season's $23.3 million player option to return to free agency in July.

Howard, who turned 30 in December, has made eight All-Star appearances in his career and is in his third season as a Rocket after signing with Houston in free agency in the summer of 2013.

The trade deadline is Thursday at 3 p.m. ET.

After it emerged last week that the Rockets, who've slumped to No. 9 in the Western Conference at 27-28, had abandoned their plans to keep Howard beyond the deadline and began making calls to gauge the market for him, Howard told ESPN: "I have not asked the Rockets to trade me, nor have I talked about right trades. I want to win. I want this situation to work. I chose this team. And I'm not running because we have been faced with some adversity."

Howard is averaging 14.6 points and 12.0 rebounds this season, and he has improved those averages to 16.5 points and 14.5 rebounds in February. This is Year 3 of an original four-year deal with the Rockets worth nearly $90 million.