The Philadelphia 76ers have expressed a willingness to trade for Houston Rockets guard Jeremy Lin depending on what sort of assets Houston is willing to attach to the deal, according to sources close to the process.
Sources told ESPN.com that the Sixers, who have ample room on their payroll to absorb Lin's contract, have emerged as a leading contender to take on Lin in a trade that sends no salary back to the Rockets, which would enable the Rockets to extend a rich offer in free agency to either Carmelo Anthony or Chris Bosh.
Sources say that the Milwaukee Bucks are another team that would consider trading for Lin if the Rockets add a sweetener or two to the deal for the privilege of shedding Lin's contract to a team that can comfortably absorb it.
It's believed that the Rockets would have to send Philadelphia at least one future first-round pick to convince the Sixers to go through with the deal, given that Lin is owed $15 million next season despite the fact that his contract will only count for $8.4 million for salary cap purposes.
Sources say that the Sixers, though, are happy to take on Lin -- despite the presence of reigning NBA Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams as their starting point guard -- provided that the extra asset or two they get from Houston is sufficiently attractive.
Sixers general manager Sam Hinkie is close with Rockets GM Daryl Morey after working alongside Morey before Hinkie's move to Philadelphia.
The Rockets have maintained for months that they could find trades for center Omer Asik and Lin if necessary to create the needed salary-cap space to bring in a star player this summer.
Houston has already agreed to trade Asik to New Orleans for a first-round pick after July 10, but Rockets officials have privately maintained that they would only trade Lin if they are sure that they are getting a player of Anthony's or Bosh's caliber through free agency.
ESPN.com reported Thursday that the Rockets have already begun courting Bosh in anticipation of Anthony staying with the Knicks.
Sources say that Bosh and Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki likely would have been at the top of Houston's list when free agency began had the Rockets believed they had a shot at either player. Nowitzki verbally agreed to a new deal with the Mavericks on Thursday, but the sudden uncertainty in Miami about LeBron James' willingness to stay with the Heat has raised hopes in some rival front offices that Bosh will consider leaving if James indeed decides to go elsewhere.