After just one season with the L.A. Lakers, Dwight Howard is now heading to the Houston Rockets.
Howard will officially sign a free-agent contract with the Rockets this Wednesday and the center confirmed the news on his Twitter saying, “I've decided to become a member of the Houston Rockets. I feel its the best place for me and I am excited about joining the Rockets and I'm looking forward to a great season. I want to thank the fans in Los Angeles and wish them the best."
Howard spoke to ESPNLosAngeles.com via a phone interview and said that he felt playing with the Rockets was his best chance at winning a NBA Championship, especially having James Harden as a teammate.
"I just looked at both teams and I felt like Houston was going in one direction -- they got a lot of young players, they got a good coach in Kevin McHale and I just felt like having him as a coach, he could really help me in the post and help me develop like I want to. That was mainly the big reason right there, and having the opportunity to grow with a team, a young team, like the Rockets. That's the reason why [I decided to leave]."
"I enjoyed, for the most part, living here in L.A. I just really think the timing in L.A., it wasn't right for me. Maybe two years ago, or 2-3 years from now, it would have been the right time. But I just think right now the timing was off for me. That's not saying that L.A. is a bad place, but I just think it's all about timing and fit when you're talking about basketball. You can put anybody together on the court and expect them to win, but the pieces have to really fit in order for a team to be successful and it was very, very tough, man. It's probably one of the toughest decisions I've ever had to make in my life."
The Lakers were reportedly looking to offer Howard a five year deal worth $118 million while Houston can only offer $88 million over four years, but, the deal also gives him a chance to become a free agent in the 2015-2016 season.
According to sources, Lakers’ coach Mike D’Antoni also contributed in Howard choosing to leave the team. Sources told ESPN that Coach D’Antoni said a few words to Howard at the pitch meeting which ultimately played a role in his decision.
Other sources say Howard didn’t want to be Kobe Bryant’s sidekick and in Coach D’Antoni’s system with an old Steve Nash leading as point guard.
However, Howard says playing alongside Kobe was not a factor, "I just felt like everything in Houston was right for me. It's a great opportunity. Me and James Harden together I think can be really, really unbelievable. We get the opportunity to really grow together. I've been a superstar in this league and I feel like me and him together can just really grow and be a dominant force together in the NBA as long as we're healthy. That was really the key to me. It had nothing to do with what Kobe did."
Kobe Bryant was disappointed in Howard leaving the team and showed that sentiment to his millions of followers when he unfollowed him on Twitter after he made the announcement.
Kobe also posted this photo on Instagram of him and Pau Gasol with hashtags that included "#vamos #juntos #lakercorazon #vino.”
Howard is looking to play with a younger team, that’s what it really boils down too but it certainly shocked the sports world because this is the Lakers and Kobe Bryant you’re turning down.