Dwight Howard, perhaps the NBA’s most dominant and indecisive big man, who tired of Orlando and never loved Los Angeles, has made up his mind.
“I’ve decided to become a member of the Houston Rockets. I feel (it’s) the best place for me and I am excited about joining the Rockets and I’m looking forward to a great season,” Howard wrote on Twitter on Friday night.
He leaves behind an extra $30 million and an offense under Los Angeles Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni that he was never fully comfortable with, joining a Rockets team that could become an immediate contender in the Western Conference with the All-Star center in the middle.
“Years of work by Dwight & Rockets went into this. This team is going to be special,” Houston general manager Daryl Morey tweeted.
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USA Today first reported Howard would join the Rockets, where he will team with All-Star James Harden to give the Rockets a potentially potent inside-outside combination.
That didn’t quite end the Howard saga, which has dragged on for a couple of years. He spoke again with the Lakers amid reports he was changing his mind.
Turns out, he was just saying goodbye.
“We have been informed of Dwight’s decision to not return to the Lakers,” general manager Mitch Kupchak said in a statement. “Naturally we’re disappointed. However, we will now move forward in a different direction with the future of the franchise and, as always, will do our best to build the best team possible, one our great Lakers fans will be proud to support.
“To Dwight, we thank him for his time and consideration, and for his efforts with us last season. We wish him the best of luck on the remainder of his NBA career.”
Dallas, Golden State and Atlanta were other suitors seriously interested in Howard, 27.
But it was the Rockets, who brought Hall of Fame center Hakeem Olajuwon with them when they made their pitch to Howard on Monday, who beat out the other teams.
And now Howard will follow the likes of Olajuwon and Yao Ming in Houston’s middle.
The deal can’t become official before Tuesday night, after next season’s salary cap has been set. The Rockets can give Howard a four-year deal worth about $88 million, a year less and far below the $118 million the Lakers could have offered.
The Lakers acquired Howard in August from Orlando as part of a four-way trade that also included Philadelphia and Denver.
He averaged 17.1 points and 12.4 rebounds in 76 games, good numbers but far from his usual dominant play in eight seasons with the Magic as he played his way back into shape after back surgery.
Howard wasn’t a natural fit in D’Antoni’s offense, had what appeared at times to be a strained relationship with superstar Kobe Bryant and acknowledged not having fun at times.
• Golden State landed a coveted free agent other than Howard. The team reached an agreement with swingman Andre Iguodala on a $48 million, four-year deal, two people with knowledge of the situation said.
One source said the Warriors cleared more than $24 million in salary-cap space by sending Richard Jefferson, Andris Biedrins and Brandon Rush to the Utah Jazz along with draft picks.
• Guard O.J. Mayo, previously with Dallas, has agreed to a $24 million, three-year deal with the Milwaukee Bucks, according to a league source.
Mayo opted out of the second year of his contract with the Mavericks.
• Ex-Utah Jazz forward Paul Millsap reportedly has agreed to a $19 million, two-year deal with the Atlanta Hawks.