Chris Pauls answer was brief, just like his time on the free agent market. "IM 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 Pauls return, which had been expected after the Clippers signed Doc Rivers as their new coach. The Clippers can pay the two-time Olympic gold medallist around $108 million for five years. Howard can make even more by staying with the Lakers, but that wont 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 hell 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. Steve Nash, who like Howard had a difficult first season in Los Angeles, tweeted Monday that he was flying from New York to Los Angeles to help the Lakers make their pitch. "(Dwight Howard) were coming for you," he wrote. "Youre going to love the statue we build for you outside Staples in 20yrs!" Contracts cant be signed until July 10, after the next seasons salary cap has been set. The Hawks also were expected to meet with their unrestricted free agents, Josh Smith and Kyle Korver, on their trip to Los Angeles, a person with knowledge of the plans told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because Mondays meetings have not been officially announced. There is plenty of interest in Smith, a versatile forward, and Deron Williams announced the Nets interest in Korver by posting a picture of the sharp shooter in a Brooklyn uniform on social media. The Knicks are hoping Andrea Bargnani relocates his outside shot after agreeing to a deal with Toronto to acquire the No. 1 overall pick in the 2006 draft. The Raptors will receive Knicks reserves Steve Novak, Marcus Camby and Quentin Richardson, who will be signed-and-traded. The Knicks are also sending the Raptors a 2016 first-round pick and two second-round picks, according to a person with knowledge of the details. Bargnani averaged a career-best 21.4 points just three seasons ago, but finished with his worst scoring and shooting numbers last season since he posted career worsts of 10.2 points and 38.6 per cent shooting in 2007-08. Other top players that are available include Denvers Andre Iguodala and Philadelphias Andrew Bynum -- both part of the four-way trade that sent Howard from Orlando to Los Angeles last summer -- and Indianas David West. Sixth Man of the Year J.R. Smith of the Knicks is a free agent, as is former winner Manu Ginobili of the San Antonio Spurs, who also could lose forward Tiago Splitter. Miami is trying to hold onto Chris Andersen, which would essentially keep together the entire core of the team that beat San Antonio in seven games to win the NBA championship.Shoes NZ Outlet . Cote was eligible to become a free agent Feb. 15. Cote helped running back Jon Cornish run for a league-high 1,813 rushing yards en route to being named the leagues most outstanding player. Shoes NZ 2020 . -- There were a lot of firsts for the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday night. https://www.shoesnzonline.com/ . Brandon Morrow allowed five runs on six hits over three innings. He struck out two, walked one and hit a batter. Edwin Encarnacion had a two-out, bases loaded two-RBI double in the third inning. Cheap Shoes NZ . Jeff Green scored 13 points and Kris Humphries 12 for the Celtics, who nearly blew an 18-point, second-half lead. Sullingers 20-20 was the first by a Celtics player since Kevin Garnetts first game in Boston in 2007. Garnett was dealt -- along with Paul Pierce -- to Brooklyn during the off-season. Shoes NZ Sale . The incident occurred at 19:56 of the second period of the Kings 4-2 road win over Edmonton on Sunday. Nolan punched Oilers forward Jesse Joensuu in the jaw in front of the Kings goal during a scrum.That big sigh of relief you heard Friday came from the folks charged with deciding whos in and whos out of the College Football Playoff.Thanks to Louisville, theyve got one less team to worry about.Those big cheers you heard? They came from the Big Ten, which suddenly has a much better chance of hoarding half of the four-team playoff field.Louisville, led by Heisman Trophy favorite Lamar Jackson, had been preemptively seething about the possibility of winding up with the short end of the stick after being judged No. 5 in the most recent rankings put out by the selection committee.The Cardinals should have been more concerned with taking care of business on the field.After a dismal performance Thursday night at Houston, theyve got no room to complain.Louisville fumbled away the opening kickoff and was already behind just 11 seconds into the game. It only got worse from there, as the Cardinals trailed 31-0 at halftime on the way to a 36-10 drubbing.We got beat by their offense, we got beat by their defense, we got beat by their special teams, coach Bobby Petrino said. It was just one of those games where you get your butt beat.With Louisville off the board, lets take a look at four teams likely to be playing in the national semifinals on New Years Eve:ALABAMA -- The defending national champions are the only unbeaten team left from the Power Five ranks, and there seems little chance that Nick Sabans squad will stumble between now and selection day. The Crimson Tide (10-0) faces road-kill Chattanooga on Saturday before closing out the regular season against Auburn in the Iron Bowl. Given the way the Tigers were exposed by Georgia, failing to make even one first down in the second half, they have no chance of pulling off a massive upset at Bryant-Denny Stadium. After that, Alabama must go through the motions of the Southeastern Conference championship game against whoever emerges from the Least -- uhh, make that East -- Division. Then, its on the playoff and a shot at the fifth national title of Sabans decade-long tenure in Tuscaloosa.OHIO STATE OR MICHIGAN -- The Big Ten behemoths wont have any trouble this weekend. Michigan is hosting lowly Indiana, while Ohio State travels to Michigan State to take on the three-win Spartans. Then, its on to the Playoff for the Playoff, otherwise known as The Game. Playing at the big horseshoe, Ohio State will be the favorite. Should the Buckeyes win, they might even get to avoid the potential stumbling block of the Big Ten championship game.dddddddddddd That honor would go to Penn State, assuming the Nittany Lions win their final two games to claim the tiebreaker by virtue of a stunning 24-21 win over Ohio State last month. No matter who plays for the Big Ten title, the Michigan-Ohio State winner is headed for the playoff.CLEMSON -- The Tigers, who were runners-up to Alabama last season and figured to be the Crimson Tides strongest challenger again, stumbled badly with a home loss to Pittsburgh. Still, Clemson (9-1) can lock up its spot by closing the regular season with wins over improving Wake Forest and rival South Carolina, before taking out someone from the weak side of the Atlantic Coast Conference in the leagues championship game. The Tigers resume is a bit lacking now that Louisvilles second loss takes some of the luster off their best win. But the selection committee would surely go with Deshaun Watson & Co. at 12-1, especially if the alternative was taking a couple of two-loss teams.A SECOND BIG TEN TEAM -- If Penn State and Wisconsin both win out, and Ohio State beats Michigan, the winner of the Big Ten title will be in prime position to claim the final playoff spot. What about Washington? Yes, the Huskies (9-1) are still very much in the running, even after an ugly home loss last weekend, but its hard to see them winning out. They close the regular season with a very challenging road game against on-the-rise rival Washington State (8-2). Even if they get past that, theres still the Pac-12 championship game and a possible rematch against Southern Cal, the team that just beat up Washington 26-13. Another possibility is a two-loss Oklahoma team, should it win the largely overlooked Big 12. At this point, though, the Sooners are merely a backup option should someone falter.No matter what, the committee doesnt have to worry about Louisville mucking things up.We blew it, Petrino said bluntly.With that, the playoff picture got a whole lot clearer.---Paul Newberry is a sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at pnewberry(at)ap.org or at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963 . His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/paul-newberr .---For more college football coverage: www.collegefootball.ap.org ' ' '