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Dwight Howard made his choice for basketball reasons

Jul 5, 2013, 7:30 PM EDT

Dwight Howard can be a goofball. He savors having fun, joking around in the locker room, being a bit of a clown prince.

That can play poorly if you’re not winning and not always giving maximum effort on the court. That image has haunted Dwight Howard for a while now, especially after the awkwardly-handled exit from Orlando then a down year in Los Angeles.

One thing in sports quickly fixes reputations — winning.

If that was the priority, if this was purely a basketball decision, then Dwight Howard made the right call in choosing the Houston Rockets.

The Lakers, even with everyone back, were not contenders with an older Steve Nash and a hobbled Kobe Bryant. Yes, the Lakers have cap space going forward — the same pitch the Mavericks made — but the Rockets had the pieces to win in place now with Howard added. There was no risk about the future.

This Rockets team was good last season, winning 45 games, but was held back by a pedestrian defense. Dwight Howard patrolling the paint, blocking shots and grabbing rebounds can change everything on that end (if he is healthy and back to his old form). With him the Rockets become the top-10 defense they need to be contenders.

On offense, the Rockets could have the best pick-and-roll in basketball.

Despite all the talk about Howard’s post play — which is improved but still about athleticism and power not polished moves — what really sets him apart as a big man is his mobility.

Howard needs to do a lot of pick-and-roll with James Harden and Jeremy Lin, both who attack aggressively on that play.

Look at it this way: Howard shot 44 percent in the post last season, 49 percent the season before and 50.6 percent the season before that. When healthy he gets points on the block (and working with Kevin McHale, the Rockets coach and Celtics legend who had some of the best footwork of any big man ever should help that).

But as the roll man getting the ball back he shot 78 percent last season, 74 percent two seasons ago and 81.7 percent the season before that. Howard sets a huge pick and is so quick it is hard for the defense to react, when he gets the ball back he has room to attack and finish. Combine that with the aggressive play of Harden and Lin and you have a crazy weapon.

Let’s see how the Rockets round out their roster before we predict they can knock off the Thunder next year in the playoffs. (I, for one, don’t love the pairing of Howard and Josh Smith, I think it gives Smith the excuse to take too many ill-advised jump shots.)

A whole lot of Lakers fans seemed happy to let Howard go, but the Howard they see next season — healthy and happy — will look like a totally different player. Howard is a three-time Defensive Player of the Year, he uses that mobility to shut down pick-and-rolls (he can show out and recover better than any big in the league) and he comes from the weak side with authority to block shots.

For several years Rockets fans were wondering what GM Daryl Morey was doing, stockpiling assets and trying to find short-term contracts. This is what he was trying to do — have the pieces to make a Harden trade and the cap space to attract Howard to go with him.

He was putting together what should be one of the best one-two punches in the NBA. He was putting together a contender.

Which is why Howard chose them. For basketball reasons. To win.

  1. money2long - Jul 5, 2013 at 7:34 PM

    howard…u actually did it.

    • fanofevilempire - Jul 5, 2013 at 10:27 PM

      can Howard play with Jeremy Lin?

      -Melo

    • sportsfan18 - Jul 5, 2013 at 10:49 PM

      No he didn’t. Reports out now that he hasn’t made up his mind and it’s 50 – 50 between Houston and LA.

  2. teambringitstrong - Jul 5, 2013 at 7:35 PM

    Kurt,

    You forget the most important ingredient. Howard couldn’t handle the pressure of playing in LA for the Lakers. The Howard us Laker fans saw is who he is.
    I was against acquiring him from the beginning. I remember in the 2009 Finals when he folded. He is who we say he is.

  3. JHathwell - Jul 5, 2013 at 7:36 PM

    All praise due Morey, but if Howard really wanted to win he would have gone to Golden State. Curry/Thompson/Barnes/Lee/Howard is frightening, the new Warrios ownership have pockets much deeper than notoriously cheap Les Alexander, and Mark Jackson was the perfect coach/mentor situation for Dwight.

    This is not a better situation Basketball-wise, and Lin and Asik are goners unless Alexander wants to pay the luxury tax. Pretty sure he doesn’t.

    • bellerophon30 - Jul 5, 2013 at 7:46 PM

      You can possibly assume that the Lakers said no to taking on Bogut as part of a sign and trade. So Dwight to Golden State wasn’t happening………even after GS traded two of their horrible contracts to poor drunk Utah, so he must have turned them down.

      • Kurt Helin - Jul 7, 2013 at 3:30 PM

        I can tell you the Lakers sent word via back channels that would not fly.

    • apkyletexas - Jul 5, 2013 at 8:13 PM

      I don’t know if Howard really fits in perfectly in GS like he does in Houston. But I love what they are doing in Golden State. If Curry didn’t injure his ankle, I think they would have beaten the Spurs outright in the playoffs.

      With or without Howard, Golden State could become the team to beat in the West this year or next. I think the Thunder have been making all the wrong moves for 2 1/2 years straight now. Next year, expect to see a lot of “Durant against the world” offense, as Westbrook returns from injury, and as defenses decide to simply double-team him and triple-team Durant.

      • JHathwell - Jul 5, 2013 at 8:47 PM

        Think of Howard as a poor man’s Olajuwon, and Hakeem won two titles with teams that were built by putting a ton of shooters around him. Orlando made the Finals with Howard by doing the same thing. Now, Houston has Harden, Parsons and Smith and will likely fill it out with guys who can hit open shots and defend.

        The Warriors have two of the best shooters on the planet and a power forward who will kill teams who double Howard. It’s the perfect match, and I swear I can’t think of a better match coach-wise for Howard than Mark Jackson.

        I have serious doubts about the longterm viability of Kevin McHale and Howard, especially when McHale sees Howard’s work ethic and general demeanor after losses.

      • fanofthegame79 - Jul 6, 2013 at 12:46 AM

        Good point about the Thunder for the last 2.5 years…started with the Perkins trade. And of course, the Harden/Martin thing (who left for Minnesota!!).

    • rileyfree - Jul 5, 2013 at 9:16 PM

      The Warriors needed a sign and trade with the Lakers for him to go to Golden State especially after AI signed.

    • sportsfan18 - Jul 5, 2013 at 10:51 PM

      If Howard ended up on the Warriors, all the players you mentioned couldn’t be there as some would have to be moved to make the numbers/dollars work.

  4. ss3walkman - Jul 5, 2013 at 7:37 PM

    Can’t hate the decision. What’s the Lakers future after Kobe? A young Harden and a well rounded team with a coach that’s a legend is hard to turn down.

    • lakerfan4life - Jul 5, 2013 at 9:06 PM

      I agree. I’m a (fading) Laker fan, and I think this is the best move for D12. He was not going to be happy playing for the Lakers, he would have to forget about being a strong defensive presence and a potential return to DMoY (because the D’Antoni Lakers don’t know how to play defense). Under Coach McHale, his defensive knowledge and ability will grow because McHale knows the importance of defensive play and how to manage it.

      Also, the Lakers are facing nothing but misery with D’Antoni and Jimmy Buss leading the troops. With those two and with Kobe out, the Lakers are a lottery team.

      Congratulations to D12 for making the smart move.

      • kinggw - Jul 5, 2013 at 9:14 PM

        Wow, an objective Lakers fan. Good for you sir.

  5. banggbiskit - Jul 5, 2013 at 7:45 PM

    I wonder if D12 is going to get boo’d by Lakers fans when he plays his first game in LA? lol

    • 00maltliquor - Jul 6, 2013 at 2:32 AM

      Probably not, I’m guessing. I know I won’t be. I have no ill feelings towards him whatsoever.

  6. nghtrder169 - Jul 5, 2013 at 7:47 PM

    GS would have been a better choice

  7. jturbo1402003 - Jul 5, 2013 at 7:48 PM

    Howard couldn’t have picked the Warriors and sign their outright. G.S. would’ve had to unload some contracts and to do that they would’ve had to trade away some of that young talent so by the time he got their it would’ve been a different team. Not like the Rockets where you add him to the team pretty much as is.

    • JHathwell - Jul 5, 2013 at 8:00 PM

      So, I guess you missed where the Warriors unloaded 24 million in useless alaries (beidrins, Jefferson, Rush) today and gave up nothing but future picks?

      • bougin89 - Jul 6, 2013 at 11:11 AM

        They still couldn’t have signed him outright. After signing Iggy they were just over the salary cap.

      • JHathwell - Jul 7, 2013 at 2:51 PM

        Brother, the Iggy move was made when it became apparent he wasn’t coming.

      • bougin89 - Jul 8, 2013 at 10:33 AM

        They still couldn’t have signed Dwight outright for 20 million a season. After they made the salary dump they had about 10 million in cap space and a 2.65 million exception. They basically used it all on Iggy. To get Dwight, the Warriors would have had to sign and trade for him.

      • JHathwell - Jul 8, 2013 at 1:29 PM

        Nope. Still had Bogut’s expiring to play with. Im sure they could have found a team to take it just as they found homes for Beidrins and Jefferson.

      • bougin89 - Jul 8, 2013 at 3:17 PM

        If they could convince the Hawks to take Bogut without giving any money back I guess that scenario could work. They are the only team left with enough cap to do that(other than the Rockets pre-Howard). Seems unlikely as they were in pursuit of Howard too, although had little chance to get him.

      • JHathwell - Jul 8, 2013 at 3:39 PM

        Nope. I’ve got Detroit, Milwaukee, Cleveland and maybe a few others far enough under as of last thursday/friday.

      • bougin89 - Jul 8, 2013 at 3:47 PM

        But look at these destinations…Detroit would have traded for Bogut over signing Josh Smith? Milwaukee wasn’t about to take Bogut back. They are trying to bring pieces to the team that will actually help them. Cleveland, ehh another long shot, Gilbert is in win now mode as well.

        The only teams that would take on a salary dump are teams in a tank for next year mode. Expiring contracts are easier to trade during the trade deadline to pick up value(not necessarily in cash dumps). Plus the Warriors already sent out two first round picks in ’14 and ’17(their assets are dwindling). The Warriors struck gold with the Jazz because the Jazz are in full blown tank mode. Not many teams are willing to concede that in the offseason.

  8. hungrybear22 - Jul 5, 2013 at 7:49 PM

    Top 10 defense? Can’t see how a Lin/Harden backcourt is an improvement over Kobe/Nash.

    • 6thsense79 - Jul 5, 2013 at 8:33 PM

      Really? Kobe is comming off an Achilles injury that no ball player has ever returned from and looked anywhere close to what they were before and Nash is damn near 40. And you can’t see how Houston’s younger back court is better? Not to mention D’antoni still can’t coach big men worth a damn.

      • hungrybear22 - Jul 5, 2013 at 9:23 PM

        Unless you count Patrick Beverly injuring the opposing pg, Lin and Harden were a sieve last year, there’s a reason OKC started Thabo all those years and brought Harden off the bench.

  9. lakerslegacy2432 - Jul 5, 2013 at 7:55 PM

    good choice!!!!

  10. 13arod - Jul 5, 2013 at 7:57 PM

    Would have loved for him to go to golden state they would be contenders for the heat

  11. bucs24 - Jul 5, 2013 at 7:59 PM

    Good choice, but your now hardens sidekick and u won’t win any championships you got Miami, OC, Spurs, good luck

  12. joebone - Jul 5, 2013 at 8:01 PM

    Still a clueless turd. And not gonna win anything. Otherwise, great choice!

  13. rodericksilva - Jul 5, 2013 at 8:03 PM

    Don’t let the door hit you…

  14. ike73 - Jul 5, 2013 at 8:07 PM

    i would have gone with GS, but this is a solid choice.

    Just nice to see somebody say no to the lakers. absolutely no compelling basketball reason for him to have gone there. surprised they were even in the running in the first place.

    sorry, kobe, but your team stinks

    • fanofthegame79 - Jul 6, 2013 at 12:44 AM

      I don’t see Kobe winning another ring. Who can they pick up to round out their roster in order to contend against the top teams in the West and then the best in the East? They had arguably the best center in the league already. So now they have to fill that hole as well as a shallow bench, an aging and oft-injured point guard and Kobe coming off a severe injury. Nothing can fix that.

  15. kerby720 - Jul 5, 2013 at 8:29 PM

    IMO a lineup of Curry, Thompson, Iggy, Lee, and D12 is a lot better than one with ?, Harden, Parsons, J. Smith, D12

    At least with that Warriors lineup he would have the best backcourt 3pt. shooting duo by far. If he went to the Warriors, it would have been kinda like the team he had with the Magic, except with a lot better quality of players.

  16. talkingfan - Jul 5, 2013 at 8:32 PM

    Pass on LA, you’re not ready for the big stage, wise move to H town.

  17. mblue24 - Jul 5, 2013 at 8:57 PM

    Howard is a D-Bag.

  18. fasteddy415 - Jul 5, 2013 at 9:49 PM

    If this was a basketball decision, D12 would have chosen the Warriors. This was more of a income tax related decision.

    • Kurt Helin - Jul 6, 2013 at 2:29 PM

      The Warriors needed the Lakers to play along, the Rockets didn’t. Personally, I think the Rockets are better because Harden/Lin are more aggressive off the pick-and-roll, but that point could be argued.

  19. voiceofreason6 - Jul 5, 2013 at 11:47 PM

    Howard ain’t gonna like Harden dominating the ball. They will be the same team with him as they were without.

  20. chunkala - Jul 6, 2013 at 1:15 AM

    Rockets are so screwed! I also dont think Lin will remain, especially after his horrendous playoffs. The Human Turnover Film!

  21. dagrizzman - Jul 6, 2013 at 7:12 AM

    The Lakers will experience the same thing the Yankees did when the old man died and the kids took over, it just isn’t the same.Things will change,bad decisions will be made.

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