Hawks meet with free-agent Dwight Howard

The Hawks met with Dwight Howard on Friday to discuss a possible return home for the free-agent center.

A contingent from the Hawks met Howard at a Buckhead restaurant. There remains mutual interest following the meeting, which went “very well,” according to a person familiar with the situation. The meeting comes on the first day of the NBA’s free-agency period.

Howard entered the NBA out of Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy as the No. 1 overall pick of the Magic in 2004.

Howard, who was born in Atlanta, has had several opportunities to return home to play for the Hawks. He previously declined each time. Most recently, the eight-time All-Star center passed on the Hawks’ pitch to sign with the Rockets in 2013.

However, Howard recently opted out of his contract with the Rockets that would have paid him $23.2 million next season. He reportedly is looking now for a contract in the neighborhood of that annual salary. The 30-year-old appeared on SiriusXM Radio on Wednesday to discuss his free agency.

“I don’t know right now where I will ,and I haven’t counted any team out,” Howard said. “I’m going to go into free agency open-minded. The best thing to do is to take the emotions out and figure out what is going to best for basketball for the rest of my career. I just want to be in a position where I can be who I am, be free and help a team win. I still have a lot in me to offer. Just because a couple bad seasons doesn’t really justify who I am as a person or a player.”

Howard would give the Hawks an inside presence. He has led the NBA in rebounding five times (2009-10, 2012-13) and in blocks twice (2009-10).

In his 12 seasons, Howard averaged 17.8 points and 12.7 rebounds per game. Last season, his averages fell to 13.7 points and 11.8 rebounds. His 835 rebounds were 103 more than the Hawks’ leader Paul Millsap.

The Hawks would still have salary-cap space to sign another max player and likely will continue their push to re-sign Al Horford, who management has labeled a priority. Horford was scheduled to meet with the Rockets on Friday.

Howard reportedly will meet with several other teams, including the Celtics. The Trail Blazers also have reportedly shown interest.