The five-team race to sign Dwight Howard is officially over, and the Houston Rockets have come in first.
Howard will not re-sign with the Los Angeles Lakers and has decided to ink a contract with the Houston Rockets, according to USA Today’s Sam Amick.
The deal is yet to be finalized, but Howard hopes to have the formal agreement in place soon, according to Yahoo! Sports Adrian Wojnarowski. The seven-time NBA All-Star is eligible for a four-year, $88 million max contract unless the Rockets and Lakers work out a sign-and-trade deal.
After one noticeably frustrating season with the Lakers alongside Kobe Bryant, there was much speculation that Howard would not return. However, the Lakers made it clear that they wanted Howard to be the team’s future, going as far as placing billboards across town begging D12 to stay.
The relationship between Bryant and Howard never fully blossomed, both on and off the court. The Lakers 2012-13 campaign was a massive underachievement after a 2012 summer that brought Howard and former two-time NBA MVP Steve Nash to the Lakers. Many experts had the Lakers as a lock to be Western Conference champions, but the trio didn’t mesh well from the start, leaving Howard visibly distraught throughout the season and unsure of his future with the team.
Howard met with the Lakers, Rockets, Golden State Warriors, Dallas Mavericks and Atlanta Hawks earlier this week, and it was reported that he had narrowed the list down to Houston, Los Angeles and Golden State before ultimately choosing Houston.
The 27-year-old will join a Rockets team that experienced great success during James Harden‘s first year after being traded from the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Rockets had the second-highest scoring offense in the NBA, averaging 106 points per game. Houston was heavily reliant on 3-point shooting for the majority of their offensive output, but the addition of Howard to their lineup makes the Rockets not only one of the most well-rounded teams in the NBA, but also one of the most exciting to watch.
With a lineup that will feature Harden, Howard, Jeremy Lin, Chandler Parsons and Omer Asik, the Rockets have great depth in both the front and backcourt. With Howard bringing his 17.1 points and 12.4 rebounds per game to Houston, the Rockets have to be considered as serious contenders to win the West.
Howard will now be joining his third team in three years, which is uncharacteristic of typical NBA superstars, but the Howard-Harden tandem could be a perfect relationship that will help catapult the Rockets franchise into Finals contention for years to come.