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Report: Dwight Howard chooses Houston Rockets

Jul 5, 2013, 6:09 PM EDT

Phoenix Suns v Los Angeles Lakers Getty Images

It’s not been confirmed by Howard himself, but it is where all signs have been pointing for days — Dwight Howard has selected the Houston Rockets as his next team, something first reported by Sam Amick of the USA Today.

This has now been confirmed by other sources including David Aldridge of NBA.com, Ken Berger of CBSSports and others. Howard’s agent Dan Fegan has said the choice has not been finalized and would not be until later tonight or tomorrow, but that sounds like him trying to get out in front  of the story. It sounds like the choice is make it’s just a matter of finalizing the contract, which is not yet done.

Howard has been personally calling teams to let them know of his choice, according to multiple reports, which started with Dallas and now has included every team. This had been a five team race for Howard: The Rockets, Lakers, Mavericks, Warriors and Hawks.

The question remains if the Rockets will do a sign-and-trade with the Lakers for players such as Omer Asik and/or Jeremy Lin. Frankly, the better move for the Lakers is to do a sign and trade where they net a massive trade exception to use later. Either way, the Rockets have a little salary cap room to still clear out to offer Howard a max deal. The Rockets also have been talking to the Hawks about an Asik deal that would free up more cap room and bring back Josh Smith to pair with Howard in a great defensive front line (that would have interesting offensive challenges), but would allow the Hawks to move Al Horford to his more natural four spot.

The Rockets had been the frontrunner because if this was really a basketball decision for Howard it put him closest to a title — paired with the playmaking of James Harden and good role players such as Chandler Parsons, the Rockets instantly enter the contenders conversation. That is a busy conversation in the West with the Oklahoma City Thunder getting Russell Westbrook back, the Clippers loaded and ready to go with a new coach and better role players like J.J. Redick, and of course discount the Spurs at your own peril.

But with Howard, the Rockets are in that conversation. That is huge for them.

119 Comments (Feed for Comments)
  1. alaisterxrose - Jul 5, 2013 at 7:23 PM

    This guy bothers me he is a great physical presence and he is a Good to Great Player but, you go to the Lakers the 2nd Most Storied Franchise and play for a season then make this game out of where you will spend your next 4-5 seasons and your 80-100 million dollars. Pick a Damn team go there and stop acting like a brat. I will say this if this guy does “officially” go to the rockets then they are upgrading but, they need to make sure they do not go the Heat’s path to a championship or they will fail just like the heat are beginning to.

  2. soopreme - Jul 5, 2013 at 7:23 PM

    As a guy who can’t stand Kobe this is good as it gets.
    The fact that this fool drove Shaq, arguably the most dominate center of all time, out of town is a case where the chickens are coming home to roost.
    Now, arguably the best center in the league doesn’t want to play with him (kobe) is really a just reward and in some way is a payback for what he did to Shaq!

    • Anoesis - Jul 6, 2013 at 1:58 AM

      Shaq drove himself out of town. He was jealous of Bryant’s celebrity and obviously hated him. Bryant was the new kid and went out of his way to feed O’Neal the ball, particularly in the ’99-’00 season, the first title in a series of three. In the finals that year O’Neal dominated in the first two games against the Pacers, but Bryant, after missing game 3 with an ankle injury, basically closed them out.

      O’Neal rebuffed every attempt to get him to stop hating Bryant, from coaches Rambis and Jackson to GM West. Tex Winter was stunned to learn just how much O’Neal resented Bryant. O’Neal was pretty much like Howard is now, just with more talent, especially on the offensive end. Bryant has always been all business and Shaq often didn’t take things very seriously.

      In ’01 Shaq showed up to training camp fat. Shaq asked to be traded after a blowout win over Phoenix because Bryant scored 38 and he scored 18. Bryant was leading the league in scoring with Jackson saying he was playing the best ball of his career. O’Neal was out of shape, shooting under 50% and clanking free throws at less than 20%. After being criticized for his lazy defense Shaq said “if the big dog ain’t me, then the house won’t get guarded – period.”

      Due to O’Neal’s sensitivity toward criticism, Jackson overlooked O’Neal’s shortcomings while maintaining his criticism of Bryant. West told O’Neal that he also had personal rivalries when he played with all-time greats Wilt Chamberlain and Elgin Baylor, but O’Neal needed to “stop being a baby … put the team’s success first.”

      Shaq changed his tune 180 degrees at the end of the season and through the playoffs, taking responsibility for the defense and working with Bryant in the offense. The Lakers went 15-1 and won their second straight title. The one loss? The opening game of the finals against Philly, when Shaq was aimless and got snapped at by Jackson for not blocking a single shot. O’Neal had 8 blocks in game 2.

      O’Neal started ’01-’02 by refusing to get recommended surgery on his toe, opting for a less-involved procedure that resulted in his toe bothering him all year. Despite adversity for most of that year the Lakers won their third straight title with a 4-0 sweep of the Nets, the first in Lakers’ history.

      ’02-’03 started with O’Neal delaying necessary surgery on his arthritic toe. Instead of having the procedure early in the summer he chose to wait until after pre-season training camp began. He said, “I got hurt on company time, so I’ll rehab on company time.” The Lakers were eliminated from the playoffs by eventual champion San Antonio.

      O’Neal recruited Karl Malone and Gary Payton. Things seemed to be looking up, with the Lakers favored to win another title in ’04. But Bryant had had enough of O’Neal’s nasty comments about him and told Jackson that “If he starts saying (unreasonable) things in the press, I’ll fire back … I’ve had it.” Bryant was absent from training camp due his legal issue in Colorado and recovery from knee surgery. O’Neal chose to tell the press, “The full team is here.” Later, after sitting out an exhibition game to rest a sore left heel, O’Neal said, “I want to be right [in the regular season] for Derek [Fisher], Karl and Gary.” Bryant was again ignored by O’Neal.

      O’Neal constantly insisted that he would voice his opinions as he saw fit because the Lakers were his team. He said that if Bryant, who would be a free agent at the season’s end, didn’t like what O’Neal had to say, Bryant should just opt out since, O’Neal said, “I ain’t going nowhere.” Jackson told the team to not discuss the issue further with reporters.

      In a subsequent interview with Jim Gray of ESPN, Bryant questioned O’Neal’s claims of team leadership. Bryant claimed that O’Neal came into training camp “fat and out of shape”, that O’Neal blamed others for the team’s defeats, and that O’Neal previously exaggerated the degree to which injuries had affected his game as a cover for simply being out of condition.

      Bryant criticized O’Neal’s public lobbying for a contract extension when “we have two future Hall of Famers (Malone and Payton) playing here pretty much for free”. He also criticized O’Neal for only taking responsibility when the team won. He accused O’Neal of threatening not to put forth his best effort if he was not passed the ball more often.

      Bryant was also upset that O’Neal did not personally contact him amidst his legal troubles in the summer. O’Neal had his bodyguard, Jerome Crawford, call Bryant.

      The following day, Lakers scout and former teammate Brian Shaw mediated between a furious O’Neal and Bryant. Shaw reprimanded O’Neal for yelling “Pay me” at Buss after dunking during a preseason game (he actually said, “Now you gonna pay me?!”). Shaw turned to Bryant and told him that Jackson allowed O’Neal time to recover from the physical pounding he endured every season. Bryant, still disappointed at the support he received over the summer, told O’Neal, “You’re supposed to be my friend.” Shaw questioned why he would believe that when Bryant did not join the team for dinners on the road, failed to attend O’Neal’s wedding though invited, and did not invite a single teammate to his own wedding.

      Bryant had become the obvious focus of the team by Dr. Buss. Jackson wanted a new contract at double his current salary, $12 million vs. $6 million. O’Neal wanted an extension with a pay raise on his remaining three years for $30 million. The Lakers had hoped O’Neal would take less money due to his age, physical conditioning, and games missed due to injuries. The Los Angeles Times wrote that both of the Lakers moves were a concession to Bryant.

      The Lakers season jerked along due to injuries, with the team never coming together defensively. Winter said, “Even though Shaq was a big presence, he was not a great shot blocker. And he didn’t like to play the screen and roll, so he put his teammates in jeopardy. He didn’t like to help [on defense].” Despite the acrimony the Lakers got into the playoffs as a second seed due to a double-overtime victory over the Trailblazers on the final night of the season. Bryant hit two buzzer-beaters for the win. After working through the Western Conference the Lakers met the Pistons in the finals and were favored to win. Instead they were dominated by Detroit. Winter said, “Shaq defeated himself against Detroit. He played way too passively. He had one big game … He’s always interested in being a scorer, but he hasn’t had nearly enough concentration on defense and rebounding.”

      Jackson, a favorite of O’Neal’s, was not offered a new contract. Jackson had said at the All-Star break he didn’t want to come back if Bryant remained. Buss also wanted to return to the fast-break style known as Showtime. After learning of Jackson’s departure and hearing Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak say he would consider trading him, O’Neal demanded to be traded. He made it clear that he felt the Laker organization was making moves designed primarily to placate Bryant, saying “The direction they’re going … I don’t want to be a part of this.”

      Bryant, meanwhile, was involved in discussions with the Los Angeles Clippers. O’Neal’s demand was soon indulged, as he was sent to the Miami Heat for Lamar Odom, Caron Butler, Brian Grant and a first-round draft pick. NBA coach and former player Doc Rivers called the relationship between O’Neal and Bryant the “biggest travesty in sports” because they should have remained teammates and won at least five championships together.

      A day after O’Neal was traded, Bryant re-signed with the Lakers for seven years and $136 million. Bryant said he enjoyed playing with both Jackson and O’Neal, and he said he did not influence the Lakers’ decisions regarding the two. Regardless, newspapers the next day criticized Bryant for his alleged manipulation of the team. O’Neal added, “When it came to my leaving, [Kobe] could have spoken up. He could have said something. He didn’t say anything.” Winter said, “[O'Neal] left because he couldn’t get what he wanted—a huge pay raise. There was no way ownership could give him what he wanted. Shaq’s demands held the franchise hostage, and the way he went about it didn’t please the owner too much.”

      Bryant reported that Buss said, “I am not going to re-sign Shaq. I am not about to pay him $30 million a year or $80 million over three years … His body is breaking down, and I don’t want to pay that money to him when I can get value for him right now rather than wait … It doesn’t matter to me what you do in free agency because I do not want to pay [Shaq], period.” O’Neal agreed with Bryant: “There’s no doubt in my mind Kobe is telling the truth. I believe him a thousand percent … I would have respected Dr. Buss more as a man if he would have told me that himself, because I know he said it.”

      Some of this is from my own memory of the situation, some of it is from other sources. Bryant was one factor that resulted in O’Neal leaving L.A., but hardly the only one, nor even the main one. Dr. Buss had the final say in all things regarding the team. The often-repeated claim that Bryant “drove O’Neal out of town” is weak and unsupported by the facts.

      O’Neal wasn’t in a position to remain the “big dog” and couldn’t handle passing that mantle to Bryant. Something had to give and the result was O’Neal getting traded. The Lakers went on to win two more titles post-Shaq. Once again, Dr. Buss was right.

  3. tampajoey - Jul 5, 2013 at 7:25 PM

    Sorry Houston but Howard is a team cancer. He’ll be crying about something by Christmas.

  4. themagicfanguy - Jul 5, 2013 at 7:27 PM

    Lakers and Celtics are done. RIP

    • spthegr8 - Jul 5, 2013 at 7:55 PM

      ^^^^ says the magic fan!! LMAO!!! Somehow I’m reminded of the old saying ” ppl who live in glass houses……

    • jimeejohnson - Jul 5, 2013 at 9:19 PM

      Magic are dead already.

      • spthegr8 - Jul 5, 2013 at 9:46 PM

        @jimee
        Very true. They flatlined a LOOOOOOONG time ago!!

  5. holographicribs - Jul 5, 2013 at 7:57 PM

    It’s always enjoyable to see Lakers fans cry; this is almost as good as the ’04 Finals. Almost. But not quite.

    • melkipershero - Jul 5, 2013 at 8:35 PM

      I like how theyre happy because they think Lebrons coming

  6. sportsfan18 - Jul 5, 2013 at 8:13 PM

    So many with a lack of intelligence and reasoning. There are more guys here using and showing their emotions more than women do.

    Yes, Dwight is immature, all about himself and many other things. His game has not really improved over his 9 NBA seasons to date. But even without improvement, his game has been very good.

    I’m not a Dwight fan at all but as adults we need to be able to separate his off court antics and look at what he does on the court objectively.

    He was 14th individually last year in field goal percentage. Many on here say he sucks on offense. Look up the all time NBA leaders for true shooting percentage (basketball reference dot com). He is currently in 17th place all time, well ahead of the current greats in the game. True shooting percentage takes into account ones free throws too you know.

    He’s a 3 time defensive player of the year. He’s a 4 time all first team defensive player of the year.

    He’s led the league in rebounding in 5 out of his 9 NBA seasons.

    The league is full of so many volume scorers and guys who don’t know the first thing about defense. At least Dwight is a defensive force and grabs boards. As for his offense. It isn’t as bad as people think.

    Again, his game hasn’t really improved.

    I wouldn’t want him on my team either now due to his coach killing ways and lack of focus on the game. He wants to have fun, play around, rub elbows with the rich and famous, crack jokes and smile even after losses.

    But, be that as it may, it doesn’t mean that he isn’t good on the court at what he does.

    It does mean he’ll NEVER be in the discussion of MJ, LeBron, Magic, Bird etc…He’s a cut below their level easily. However, Jordan didn’t win alone. Bird didn’t win alone. Magic certainly didn’t win alone.

    Howard is a great piece on a team that is able to fit him into their system.

    I don’t know how much of a leader Harden is. He doesn’t seem to be like Kobe, which is good for Rocket’s fans as he won’t push Dwight away. Hopefully he’s able to help make Dwight toe the line in a good and positive way behind the scenes.

  7. jimeejohnson - Jul 5, 2013 at 9:18 PM

    Y’all missed it: Howard’s goin’ to Texas for the cheap gasoline. It’s ridiculously expensive in California and especially in Los Angeles. Dwight likes his gasoline cheap. He also doesn’t like avocados!

  8. wwttww - Jul 5, 2013 at 9:56 PM

    Not so fast…..

  9. iceturkee - Jul 5, 2013 at 10:14 PM

    Not so fast. He has changed his mind now 50 50 he will return to lakers says Espinoza!

  10. pukpokito - Jul 5, 2013 at 10:43 PM

    Los Angeles issued a statement saying that Howard informed Kupchak of his decision “to not return to the Lakers.”

    It’s over. Howard is a Houston Rocket.

  11. rick1k6 - Jul 5, 2013 at 10:46 PM

    Houston, you have a problem.

  12. adoombray - Jul 5, 2013 at 11:32 PM

    I wasn’t gonna drink after my 4th of July, but I’m drinking beer as cheap as the Lakers bench and salute to 2-3 years from now when they have nobody under contract, an owner nobody wants to play for, and all the Laker “fans” are suddenly wearing Chris Paul jerseys.

  13. rockybev35 - Jul 5, 2013 at 11:55 PM

    Laker Fans- get over it.
    Nothing is assured by the Rockets landing him for our franchise. Calling Dwight a coward for leaving an aging franchise that never synced for him/Kobe to begin with shows you are sore losers. You hated him, talked crap about him while GE was there… Let him leave without the same bitterness invoked on him as a Laker.
    Second- calling Houston small market makes me laugh. I get LA is a great city. Houston trumps it from a commerce perspective, which is to say LA is Houston’s b$&th compared to financial stability.
    Lakers are a stories franchise. Rox are on the rise and Houston is by no means a small market.
    You lost a guy because your franchise is aging, period.

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