LOS ANGELES, Calif., (AP) – Dwight Howard is joining the Rockets, leaving Los Angeles after one season to chase championships in Houston.
“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.
“I want to thank the fans in Los Angeles and wish them the best.”
Howard leaves behind an extra $30 million and an offense under 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,” general manager Daryl Morey tweeted.
USA Today first reported earlier Friday that Howard would join the Rockets, where he would 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 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,” 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 the other suitors interested in Howard.
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 until July 10, after next season’s salary cap has been set. The Rockets can give him a four-year deal worth about $88 million, a year less and far below the $118 million the Lakers could have offered.
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