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July 2, 2013

Who’s going where in the NBA

NORMAN — Chris Paul’s answer was brief, just like his time on the free agent market.

“I’M IN!!!” he wrote Monday on Twitter.

He will be staying with the Clippers, the longtime losers he helped turned into a division champion in just two seasons.

Dwight Howard will need more time to think.

Free agency opened Monday in the NBA with the focus on the pair of Los Angeles All-Stars, though Paul took himself off the market only hours after shopping season started.

Agent Leon Rose confirmed Paul’s return, which had been expected after the Clippers signed Doc Rivers as their new coach. The Clippers can pay the two-time Olympic gold medalist around $108 million for five years.

Howard can make even more by staying with the Lakers, but that won’t stop him from looking elsewhere.

He met with the Houston Rockets early Monday, the Dallas Mavericks and Atlanta Hawks also are interested, and the Lakers have said repeatedly they want to keep him.

The Rockets got the first crack at persuading him to leave. With Hall of Famers Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler joining its contingent, Houston pitched Howard on joining All-Star James Harden.

Rockets general manager Daryl Morey wrote on Twitter that it was a great meeting with Howard and that having Olajuwon and Drexler there “made it obvious how (Howard and Harden) could be the next (great) big/wing combo.”

Hawks general manager Danny Ferry and new coach Mike Budenholzer were visiting Howard later Monday, trying to convince him to join his hometown team.

And he’ll meet Tuesday with the Lakers’ delegation. His first — perhaps only — season in Los Angeles was a disappointment and he acknowledged being unhappy at times. But the Lakers want to keep the former Defensive Player of the Year, believing the extra year and about $30 million more they can give him will provide a huge advantage.

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